SCHOFIELD, WI (WSAU) - Governor Scott Walker started off the new year with a new push for mining legislation in Wisconsin. His “Mining for Jobs” tour went to Green Bay, Schofield, and Milwaukee, where he addressed workers at businesses that could see growth with new mining operations.
Walker told the employees of L & S Electric that passing new mining legislation not only adds jobs in northern Wisconsin at the mines, but adds jobs in places like L & S Electric that supply and repair the specialized tools and equipment used in mining.
The Governor is optimistic that new mining legislation can pass, saying, "We hope early on in the session that both the Assembly and the Senate members of both political parties can come forward and help us pass legislation to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining in this state."
Governor Walker believes mining jobs would add thousands of jobs in both construction and actual mining work for several generations. "We believe through a number of independent, economic reviews, that it could generate as many as three thousand jobs just in the construction, and about as many, just under three thousand jobs permanently." saying the jobs would last for several generations.
The Governor believes there is a way to achieve both goals of creating jobs and maintaining Wisconsin’s environment. Walker believes iron ore is one of the safest things that can be extracted without causing environmental damage, and he'd like to see the state see the benifits of the mining process for those jobs and the support industries such as L & S Electric in Schofield.
In the last session, mining legislation failed in the State Senate by a single vote. Walker believes there is enough support to pass new mining legislation in the new session. Walker says, "We don't want to go through this whole process and have it not lead to mining jobs. That's really what it's all about. I believe firmly that there's a bill that can pass that will both produce mining jobs in the state and can still maintain high levels of protection for clean air, clean land, and clean water. We value that here and across the state when it comes to tourism and agriculture and just in our own personal lives."
Some counties are on record opposing mining, where others are supporting new mining and the jobs that it brings. Walker says, "If you look at Iron County itself, both the county Board of Supervisors and the Towns Association both have gone on record in support of a mine and mining legislation. Iron County is one of the most economically depressed in the state. They desperately need the jobs, but on top of that, it's not just the jobs that would come in Iron and the surrounding Ashland County. It's in Marathon County, Brown County and other places around the state where you have companies like L & S who benifit off of mining related activity. They'll see jobs not only at the mine, but jobs that come to companies like this all across the State of Wisconsin."
Walker says new mining legislation simplifies the creation of a new mine, but he says there are still environmental safeguards in place. "This proposed legislation just streamlines the process for safe and environmentally sound mining. It does not guarantee a mine. There is still a process. The DNR will have to go through (applications), at the federal government level there is still the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, so in terms of clean water, clean land, and clean air requirements, those are in place."
Democratic Representative-Elect Mandy Wright of Wausau attended the event at L & S Electric, but isn’t taking a stand on the mining issue yet, saying, "I want to be very responsible about this and deliberate, and take my time to listen to all sides" saying there are many groups that want to weigh in on this issue. Republican Representative-Elect John Spiros of Marshfield supports the concept of mining and the jobs it could bring, but wants to see the bill before deciding if he’ll vote for it. "I think the initial bill was good. I think there can be some tweeks (to the old bill) like the Governor mentioned." and he sees nothing but positive if done right, "Just like here at L & S, looking at expansion, looking at adding jobs here in Weston, and Marathon County, it's a wonderful thing."
The tour began in Green Bay at Valley Plating and Fabricating. Then, Walker traveled to Schofield to speak with workers at L & S Electric, Inc. The final stop of the day was at Phoenix Products Company, Inc. in Milwaukee.