Guest Column by
Scott Manley, WMC Environmental Policy Director
Madison – Earlier this week, Republican Senator Dale Schultz joined all 16 Senate Democrats in voting to kill the iron mining bill on a 17-16 vote.
Within hours of the Senate vote, Gogebic Taconite announced they were ending their plans to invest in an iron ore mine in Wisconsin, and will no longer pursue what would have been the state’s largest privately funded economic development project.
States typically seek to attract large development projects like the proposed iron mine by providing economic incentives like tax credits and training grants. Instead of welcoming thousands of jobs to our state, Senator Schultz and the Senate Democrats voted to send a clear message that Gogebic Taconite (or any other mining company) is not welcome here.
Chasing a business away before they can even gain a foothold does not bode well for future efforts to attract jobs to our state.
The Senate’s rejection of mining reforms and the corresponding loss of mining investment is a tremendous blow to Wisconsin’s economy and economic recovery.
Because of the vote, Wisconsin will now forego a $1.5 billion investment in our economy.
Gone is the opportunity to create 3,175 statewide, including 700 jobs paying an average of $82,000 for mine workers.
Nor will we give the construction industry a badly needed boost with the creation of more than 2,000 jobs to build the mine.
We have also lost an estimated $1.4 billion in state and local taxes from the mining operation to help fund schools, roads and other vital services.
Why would Democrats and Senator Schultz turn their back on these tremendous economic opportunities? There is no shortage of excuses as they scramble for cover to justify their job-killing vote.
One such excuse suggests Republicans weren’t willing to compromise. Not true. The legislative authors moved significantly toward the other side, making more than 30 substantive changes to the original bill.
By comparison, the mining opponents dug in, and never offered a serious proposal to fix what is broken with our current mining laws.
Another incorrect, but frequent excuse relates to the bill weakening environmental standards. However, the nonpartisan attorneys at the Legislative Council busted that myth when they confirmed the bill does not change our current air quality, water quality or groundwater quality standards.
As further proof that the environmental concerns are unfounded, the DNR issued a statement saying the bill gives them the tools necessary to ensure environmentally safe mining, noting it allows the agency to protect the environment both on and off the mining site.
Inventing an environmental boogeyman is a convenient foil for people who are unwilling to admit that they simply oppose mining.
Excuses aside, the bill died because every single Democrat in both houses of the Legislature voted against it.
At a recent labor rally, union leader Lyle Balistreri said “For the Senate Democrats to vote against this bill is a sign that they’re not with us. They’re certainly not job creators, and in fact they’re job killers.”
Democrats and environmental groups have taken the demise of the mining bill as an opportunity to declare victory.
Amid their self-congratulation and victorious puffery, Iron County will continue to lose population as young people leave to seek jobs elsewhere.
The local unemployment rate will remain unacceptably high, and families will remain impoverished by some of the lowest household incomes in the state.
It’s difficult to understand how anyone can consider that outcome a victory.
For Further Information Contact:
Scott Manley, (608) 258-3400
Jobs are the Casualty of Mining Bill Defeat
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