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WI: Week gives preview of upcoming mining deal, tax breaks

By   /   January 4, 2013  /   No Comments

By Kirsten Adshead  |  Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Think of this week (a three-day work week for many) as a ramp-up to what’s coming Monday.

The newly elected Legislature is set to begin session, and Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders already have signaled what’s on the agenda.

Wisconsin lawmakers are having another go at passing mining legislation this year, after a controverisal bill died last March, in large part due to concerns over environmental impacts.

Mining. Income tax breaks. Maybe venture capital.

Walker’s first term was marked by controversy, notably the collective bargaining changes that got union workers protesting and the country watching the Badger State.

His office marked the start of Walker’s third year in office Thursday by touting his successes, including addressing a $3.6 billion budget hole, and sounded a more conciliatory note in the process.

“In the second half of my term, I look forward to working with the people of Wisconsin, from workers to educators and job creators to legislators, to continue moving our state forward,” Walker said in the statement.

Are Wisconsin’s Democrats and Republicans truly committed to compromising — or even just getting along?

Stay tuned. We’ll know more next week.

Walker kicks off mining tour

Walker made a mini-tour of Wisconsin on Wednesday aimed at boosting support for legislation that would change the state’s mining-related regulations.

“It’s my hope we start with the bill that’s based on the one the Assembly passed last session,” Walker said at Phoenix Products in Milwaukee. “There’s certainly room for a few tweaks and a few improvements, but they have to be things that add value … They have to be things that ultimately lead to a mine.”

He did not elaborate on what “tweaks” or “improvements” would make it past his desk.

A controversial mining bill died last March when Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, sided with Democrats who objected to the bill in part due to environmental-protection concerns.

Elections since then, however, have padded the GOP’s majority in the Senate, meaning Republicans might not need Schultz’s vote to pass a mining bill.

‘Fiscal cliff’ deal may inhibit tax-break dreams

Wisconsin might struggle to pay for all of the income-tax relief Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders are hyping – in part because Wisconsin officials were betting Congress would let the country fall over the “fiscal cliff.”

The state’s financial projections included $219 million in estate taxes officials here hoped to get if Congress didn’t pass legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff.”

Congress’ action on that bill means Wisconsin won’t get that money. And even with that $219 million, the Department of Administration said state agencies’ requests for funding exceed expected revenue for the biennium by $171.4 million.

What to watch for in ’13

If there’s a man in Wisconsin who knows the pulse of Wisconsinites, it’s probably Charles Franklin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist who led last year’s Marquette Law School political poll.

Here’s what Franklin predicts for the coming year.

And here are five things to look for in the coming five months.

It’s going to be a busy year, Wisconsin. But that’s the new normal.

Contact Adshead at kadshead@wisconsinreporter.com.

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