Monthly Archives: January 2013

Civil Dialogue with Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca (D)

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In the January edition of Civil Dialogue, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca talked about the mining bill developed by Republicans who control the Legislature and controversies over whether it will lower environmental protections and how soon it could create jobs. They also previewed the 2013-15 budget that Gov. Scott Walker will present on Feb. 20 and the lack of agreement over how to make up what Vos has estimated as a looming 10-year, $4 billion shortfall in paying for transportation programs. Both also said they do not expect any new gun-control bills to debated in the wake of the Dec. 14 killing of 20 children and six school professionals at Sandy Hook Elementary.

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AFSCME’s Marty Beil Speaks on Behalf of Prison Guards at Assembly Committee on Corrections

Marty Beil, executive director of the AFSCME Council 24 union that represents about 2,000 prison and probation workers, told legislators that many guards are so overworked they ‘spend more time with inmates than with their families.’ That’s not a ‘healthy situation,’ Beil told an Assembly committee. The union leader said seniority no longer determines overtime, specific jobs and work schedules. Many prison guards now have ‘less due process than many of the inmates they supervise,’ Beil said. ‘In general, corrections workers feel devalued and at-risk.’ Beil is scheduled to be one of three leaders of public employee unions who are panelists in a Monday WisconsinEye Newsmakers show. And Ed Wall, who state senators unanimously confirmed Tuesday as secretary of the Department of Corrections, is scheduled to be the subject of another Newsmakers interview on Feb. 18.

Newsmakers: Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm

In a Newsmakers interview, Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm said wiser evaluations of criminal cases and charging decisions sent 3,000 fewer criminals from Milwaukee County to the state prison system in recent years. Since it costs about $32,000 a year to house an adult inmate in a prison, Chisholm estimated that his office has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $96 million. In return, Chisholm said he would like permission to fill 11 open jobs for assistant DAs and the right to pay those assistants more. Chishold said turnover caused by the practice of law firms hiring away assistants who he trained has forced him to hire 75 assistants in the last six years. The Milwaukee DA also estimated that tougher drunk driving laws being pushed by Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Jim Ott would add between 750 and 1,000 cases a year to his office workload.

Newsmakers: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Asked about the 2013-15 state budget that Gov. Scott Walker will submit on Feb. 20, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he has this simple request: “First, do no harm.” In a Newsmakers interview, Barrett said state revenue-sharing and transportation aids are critical to continuing vital services in Wisconsin’s largest city. Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports show that Milwaukee gets $227 million in revenue-sharing, utility and Expenditure Restraint aid and $22.29 million — a 12.4% drop in two years — in transportation aids. Barrett said the Milwaukee Police Department alone costs more to run than the $227 million in general state aids the city gets. Barrett, who ran against Walker in 2010 and the 2012 recall election, also said he is very confident his Democratic Party will field a strong candidate against the Republican governor in 2014. At the end of the interview, Barrett predicted that the Brewers will win 85 games this season – 2 more than last year.

Newsmakers: Menominee Nation Tribal Chair Craig Corn

Menominee Nation Tribal Chair Craig Corn talked about the tribe’s 10-year push to open what he said would be an $800-million casino and hotel complex in Kenosha. In a Newsmakers interview, Corn said the Menominee Nation is the poorest tribe in Wisconsin, so it cannot afford a public-relations campaign to answer the “Enough Already” anti-Kenosha casino ad and public relations blitz being financed by other tribes. Corn said profits from a Kenosha casino would rebuild the tribe’s 100-year-old school and pay for better housing and health care for the 8,807 tribal members. Corn said he cannot understand opposition from other tribes, saying Menominee Nation members are only trying to help themselves. He said regional US Bureau of Indian Affairs officials have forwarded a recommendation to their Washington bosses on the Kenosha casino, but he doesn’t know what they recommended. A final decision could be up to Gov. Scott Walker.

Mining Company Donations Governor and Others

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports that mining company executives and potential mine developers donated $11.3 million to Gov. Scott Walker between 2010 and April 2012. Walker and Republican legislators are pushing a new bill that rewrites mining regulations to encourage Gogebic Taconite to apply for a permit for an open-pit iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The Democracy Campaign reported that the same pro-mining individuals gave $4.25 million to legislators between 2010 and June 30, 2012. For every $1 in campaign donations from leaders of environmental groups, $610 was donated from individuals wanting new mining regulations, the Democracy Campaign added.

LFP Announces Higher Budget Surplus

Legislative Fiscal Bureau just announced that state government should end its budget cycle on June 30 with an available balance of $419 million — about $70 million more than Gov. Scott Walker estimated in his June 15 State of the State speech. The projected $419-million balance is also about $136 million higher than what Walker aides estimated last fall. The new Fiscal Bureau report will be the basis of the 2013-15 budget that Walker will present to the Legislature on February 20. The LFB report lowered some revenue estimates for the two-year period that starts July 1, however.