Friday, March 2, 2012

The Only Wisconsin Jobs Plan Is Dying By Republican Hands

The Republicans have one and only one jobs plan for Wisconsin, get Gogebic Taconite to open a mine in northern Wisconsin. But because the majority of Republicans refuse to consult experts and insist on gutting existing environmental protections, they can't get enough votes to pass a bill.

The Republicans have had such a bad record on jobs that they're willing to stake Wisconsin's future for "hundreds" of jobs. The "jobs plan" could create 600-700 jobs, as the company promised it would create that many if they opened the mine, with some additional jobs in the surrounding area. However, according to Scott Walker, the company isn't interested if Wisconsin's environmental protections are kept intact.

The Assembly mining bill (AB 426), or a similar version, is on life support, but the Republicans are very close to passing such a bill. The only person standing in their way is Republican State Senator Dale Schultz. Schultz said, "My conscience simply won't allow me to surrender the existing environmental protections without a full and open debate." Residents where the proposed mine will be located are strongly against the Republicans' bill, in fact all of Wisconsin is. So, Schultz and Democrat Senator Bob Jauch, whose district covers the location of the mine, offered a compromise bill last week with more support (Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act). However, the bill was flatly rejected by Gogebic Taconite and Walker, and the Republican leadership are now blaming Schultz and the Democrats for the Republicans' failure to compromise.

We may need new mining legislation that improves the permit process, but Wisconsin must not easily give up its environmental protections, especially for a relatively small amount of jobs. It's concerning when a company won't commit to a project unless they know they can pollute more. We can get far more than 600-700 jobs without sacrificing so much. It's very unfortunate the Republican leaders put all their eggs in one basket and then refuse to compromise.

If we don't get new mining legislation, it won't be because Schultz or the Democrats wouldn't compromise. It will be because the Republicans wouldn't bring everyone to the table in an open and democratic process and then refused to compromise. Take for example, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's abrupt disbanding of the bipartisan committee he setup to create a better bill than the Assembly's. The Republican leadership has already failed, whether we get new mining legislation or not. And the lack of jobs stemming from the imminent failure is yet another Republican failure to make a wholehearted effort to craft a jobs plan for Wisconsin.

Senator Dale Schultz is under significant pressure to cave, and he has been a big target of negative ads and robocalls, even the Journal Sentinel is getting in the mix with several articles hammering away. The Joint Finance Committee has scheduled a vote on the Assembly bill for Monday, and I'm sure the pressure against Schultz will hit a fever pitch when it passes the committee. The legislative session is set to end March 15.

Don't be afraid to tell Senator Dale Schultz you support him standing up for Wisconsin. His office phone is (608) 266-0703 or (800) 978-8008, or email him at I'm sure he'll be happy to hear from you, especially if you're a constituent.

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