GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Great Lakes mayors want more help from the federal government to prevent oil spills
Great Lakes mayors want the national governments of the U-S and Canada to do more to prevent oil spills. Racine Mayor John Dickert says the federal response to serious environmental mishaps has been insufficient in both countries. Dickert heads the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities' Initiative, which passed a resolution yesterday for more federal action. That would include stricter regulations on the shipping of oil by trains and pipelines. The mayors also want more frequent inspections of oil-transporting facilities, and tighter enforcement. The group also proposes a fee on energy companies, creating a fund to pay for emergency responses and clean-ups of oil spills.
A Kenosha County Board member says there's an effort to get anti-Walker voters to the polls in November, by holding referendums in selected counties on an issue the governor's opponents favor -- raising the minimum wage. The Kenosha board voted this week to hold an advisory referendum on raising the state's minimum from 7.25-an-hour to 10.10. Supervisor Erin Decker called it an effort to sway the governor's contest. Supervisor Mike Goebel said he proposed the referendum because he wanted the voters to decide the issue. Goebel said he didn't want state politicians to "pat themselves on the back" if they approve a smaller increase. W-R-J-N Radio said the Kenosha board also voted against letting the county set its own minimum wage if the state refuses to act. The issue has gained steam since the last legislative session ended. That was after majority Republicans ignored pleas from Democrats to pass a gradual two-year hike in the state minimum to 10.10. A U-W Milwaukee poll this month showed that 76-percent of Wisconsin registered voters favor some type of increase -- and 70-percent said future hikes should be automatically tied to inflation. The Wisconsin Restaurant Association now says a 10.10-wage could result in a loss of 16-thousand-500 jobs -- mainly because diners wouldn't pay higher prices to cover the workers' higher wages.
We'll hear more about the politics of job growth in Wisconsin today. The U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics will release a quarterly report showing how the Badger State compares to others in creating new jobs throughout 2013. State officials have already said that Wisconsin added 28-thousand private sector jobs last year. What we we'll learn today is how rapidly the state is creating jobs compared to others. In the last report three months ago, Wisconsin had the 35th slowest job growth on a percentage basis. As he runs for re-election, Governor Scott Walker highlights the creation of 101-thousand jobs since he took office in 2011. He downplays his original campaign promise of 250-thousand new jobs -- something that Democrats and their main gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke are trying not to let voters forget.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants Governor Scott Walker to scrap the idea of a double-decker stretch on Interstate-94. Highway planners are studying a number of options to reduce congestion on the east-west part of the freeway. Officials say the freeway cannot get much wider, because three cemeteries and the Story Hill neighborhood are close by. The Republican Walker says he won't support anything in which graves have to be moved. Otherwise, the governor is open to anything else. The double-decker section would run for about a mile-and-a-half on I-94 from the Miller Park baseball stadium to the west. Mayor Barrett said he's "mystified" that Walker has not dropped the proposal. A coalition that includes the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group told the state D-O-T this week it opposes an expansion of 94. Group director Bruce Speight cited a national study from last year, showing that Milwaukeeans reduced their total driving by 20-percent from 2006-through-2011. His coalition says road dollars would be better spent on improving city streets and other infrastructure. Yesterday, Walker said he was not happy with the mayor's opposition to the double-deck idea. He said a smooth-running transportation system is needed to improve the flow of business in-and-out of Milwaukee.
Wisconsin wolf hunters would only take 91 animals this fall, under a proposal from D-N-R wildlife officials. They'll ask the Natural Resources Board this month to approve a total quota of 156, down from last year's take of 251. That's before Chippewa Indian tribes get their share under their long-standing treaty rights. Under the D-N-R's new proposal, the tribes could take 65 wolves in their ceded territory in north central Wisconsin. However, Indians consider the grey wolf to be sacred -- and they did not shoot any of their allotted animals in the first two seasons of the wolf hunt. As we learned a few weeks ago, the state's spring wolf population has dropped after years of growth. That's one reason for the lower quota. The D-N-R said 660-to-689 wolves were roaming the state after the long, cold winter -- down from a top of 824 a year ago. The agency has a goal of keeping 350 animals, but wildlife management director Tom Hauge is not seeking that big a of a decline right away. He says it's not known how hunting affects the total wolf population, and experts want to learn more about that. The Natural Resources Board is scheduled to consider the trimmed-down hunt next Wednesday in Milwaukee.