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Even in July, elections rule Wisconsin political news

By   /   July 6, 2012  /   No Comments

By Kirsten Adshead and M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Hardly a week passes in Wisconsin anymore in which elections fail to make headlines, and this week was no exception.

Thus, the recount of the Senate District 21 recall election concluded Monday – although that may not be the end of the story.

And the Government Accountability Board already is working on the next election, Aug. 14, the primary in which Republicans will choose wich GOP candidate will compete with U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-2nd District, for Herb Kohl’s U.S. Senate seat.

The GAB filed its required report to the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday regarding how well clerks complied, this time around, with a federal law setting deadlines for mailing out absentee ballots to military and absentee voters.

July 4th holiday or not, election officials are busy, busy.

Wanggaard mulls legal action

Van Wanggaard has until Tuesday evening to decide whether he wants to continue fighting.

The incumbent Republican senator of the 21st Senate District remained 819 votes behind Democratic challenger John Lehman early Monday afternoon, when an extensive recount wrapped up.

If Wanggaard concedes, Lehman returns to the seat he held before Wanggaard defeated him in November 2010, giving Democrats, at least for now, a 17-16 majority in the state Senate.

But, prompted by reports of voting irregularities, Wanggaard is considering whether to push on.

“As with my decision to pursue the recount, I will spend the next couple of days reviewing the evidence, speaking with voters, supporters, and my family before deciding my next step,” Wanggaard, of Racine, said in a statement.

Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, the state’s election watchdog, said Wanggaard has until the close of business July 10 to challenge the recount in Circuit Court. GAB will not certify the results until either the deadline passes or the court decides the challenge.

Walker’s  game of high stakes

Gov. Scott Walker’s decision not to implement President Barack Obama’s federal health care law might be politically savvy — even, some would say, principled.

But Walker’s move is also a high-stakes gamble that could limit Wisconsin’s choices and may force the Badger State to join the federal government’s one-size-fits-all, health-care exchange in lieu of devising one that best fits Wisconsinites’ needs.

“There is no doubt in my mind that if Wisconsin waits until after the election, it will be too late for Wisconsin to bring up its own exchange,” said Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonprofit that researches health-related issues.

Walker’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a week ago that the expansive health care law is mostly constitutional, putting conservative governors in an awkward spot: Do they implement a law they believe is an expensive, prime example of government overreach and risk alienating conservative voters? Or do they delay implementation and risk having greater federal oversight of state health programs?

Meanwhile, at least one Wisconsin businessman is concerned about a provision in the health care law that requires businesses with at least 50 employees to provide a health insurance plan for their workers or face penalties.

“I will do my best to stay below 50 people, as I think many business owners in my realm will do,” Boyd Miller, president and owner of Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Thermoset Molding, said.

Big money

Walker’s political war chest continued to grow at a record pace, his campaign fundraising power perhaps emboldened by his overwhelming win in last month’s recall election.

The governor raised more than $6.7 million between May 22 and June 30, according to the latest campaign filing. Walker picked up 82,206 contributions over the period.

“Overwhelming support from the grassroots was the engine behind Governor Walker’s historic victory in June, and that strong support continues in an incredible way,” said Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson.

The campaign spent almost all it had on the defending the first-term governor from being ousted in the June 5 election. Walker finished the final recall election reporting perio with more than $1.6 million cash on hand. The campaign raised more than than $27.6 million since Jan. 1, 2012.

Some clerks failing MOVE Act

Thirty-nine local election clerks failed to meet a federal deadline for getting absentee ballots to military and absentee voters ahead of the Aug. 14 GOP U.S. Senate primary, according to a report submitted this week to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The GAB is required to submit a compliance report to the federal government as part of a deal stemming from a lawsuit DOJ filed against the state last spring, stemming from the April presidential primary.

Municipal election clerks had until last Saturday to send out absentee ballots for the Aug. 14 primary election to military and overseas voters, as required by the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.

The MOVE Act is intended to ensure that military and overseas voters have ample time to receive a ballot, vote and return the ballot in time for it to be counted in the election. It requires absentee ballots be sent out to military and overseas voters no later than 45 days before a federal election.

“We have continued to communicate with clerks about the importance of meeting the deadlines for sending out military and overseas absentee ballots,” GAB spokesman Reid Magney said in an email.

As the book closes on Wisconsin’s 2012 fiscal year, the Badger State budget remains on track to post a surplus, budget experts tell Wisconsin Reporter.

“Wisconsin’s budget forecast has dramatically improved over the last four months,” said Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue.

Marquis gets the backing of a state budget watcher.

“I think we will definitely end the fiscal year with a (positive) balance,” said Bob Lang, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which provides fiscal and program information and analyses to the Wisconsin Legislature.

Lang said the state appears to be on pace to hit estimates from the state Department of Revenue, which in May projected revenue to run ahead of projections by some $275 million, not factoring in long-term debt, at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, which just wrapped up June 30.

The department estimates a positive balance of $154.5 million at the end of the current two-year cycle, which ends June 30, 2013. About $65 million of overflow would be targeted for a reserve, in a state-mandated rainy day fund.

The fiscal bureau in February had projected a $143 million deficit at the end of the biennium.

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