Gov. Walker: Politics drove defeat of mining measure - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Gov. Walker: Politics drove defeat of mining measure

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MADISON (WAOW) -

Gov. Scott Walker says politics motivated the rejection of a proposal to streamline the mining permit process in Wisconsin.

He also said nothing short of the proposal crafted by Republican legislators would be satisfactory to a company promising to bring as many as 2,300 jobs to Wisconsin by opening an iron mine south of Lake Superior.

"What I want is something to get done," said Walker in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. But he said Democrats and outside groups don't want to do anything that will give him a victory, especially in the wake of a recall election.

"This is driven by politics," said Walker. "This is overwhelming pressure for me and for other senators who are facing recalls not to have success."

But State Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover) blasted Walker's statements to the media and said the governor should start leading by bringing all the parties together.

"The governor needs to quit holding conference calls with the media and come over to the legislature and sit down with a few of the people who have concerns about the mining law, and talk to us about it, and show some leadership on this issue," said Holperin.

Last week the State Senate rejected a proposal that would have streamlined the state's mining permit process. Following that decision, a Florida-based company that wanted to open an iron mine in Northern Wisconsin said it would stop pursuing the project.

"When 17 state senators refused to move in their direction at all, they felt it was time to move on," said Walker.

One Republican, State Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), joined Democrats in opposing the measure over environmental concerns.

Walker told reporters there's still a chance to win back the company, Gogebic Taconite, by passing the bill already approved by the State Assembly. Walker said he hasn't reached out to Schultz or other senators directly, but he said his staff is working on it.

"The reason why somebody's voting for or against it is not because of whether I did or didn't talk to them," said Walker.

For his part, the governor said he's reaching out to people in those senators' districts in an effort to get them to change their minds.

But Holperin said Walker's tactic won't work.

"We need a skilled negotiator, we need a deal-broker, and I think the governor can be that person," said Holperin. "But he's got to come and get some people in a room and have a conversation."

The legislative session is wrapping up Thursday, and Holperin said there's not time to address the mining issue this week. Gov. Walker said he would be happy to call a special session to get things resolved, but he said the ultimate bill needs to closely resemble the measure agreed to by GOP legislators and company leaders--a proposal Walker said resulted from many compromises between the state and Gogebic Taconite.

"We're still holding out hope," some of the state senators who voted against the measure will change their minds, said Walker.

Online Reporter: Daniel Woodruff

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