Friday, January 23, 2015

Walker Rejects Kenosha Casino

Scott Walker is blaming Democrat Jim Doyle for his rejection of the proposed Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Kenosha.

Read Walker's press release on his decision:

Today, Governor Scott Walker informed the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) at the Department of Interior (DOI) of his non-concurrence with their determination on the proposed casino project.

“After a comprehensive review of the potential economic impact of the proposed Kenosha casino project, the risk to the state’s taxpayers is too great,” said Governor Walker. “Due to the compacts negotiated by Governor Doyle, the current cost to taxpayers of approving the proposed casino project is up to $100 million and the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“We have had tremendous success in helping grow quality, family-supporting jobs in Kenosha, including the recent Amazon, InSinkErator, and Meijer Distribution Inc. expansions,” continued Governor Walker. “We remain committed to using state resources effectively to continue growing the economy and creating jobs in Kenosha and around the state.”

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs took more than nine years to review the proposed casino project. For over a year, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch conducted a comprehensive economic analysis of the potential impact of the proposed casino project. In an ideal scenario, jobs could have been created by the casino, the reality of Governor Doyle’s compacts with the tribes open the State of Wisconsin up to significant litigation risk, which would put state taxpayers on the hook for up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Secretary Huebsch outlined the potential litigation risk in a recent memo to Governor Walker, which can be found here.

In a report to Governor Walker, Secretary Huebsch explained the outstanding issues facing the proposed casino, which could have a devastating impact on the state budget:

Although the Kenosha casino could result in these positive economic benefits, approval also comes with substantial and significant risks. Our analysis shows taxpayers could lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars of tribal revenue sharing payments as a result of the compact negotiated by Governor Jim Doyle. Due to the legal exposure created by the Doyle compacts, beyond just losing future revenue, approving the Kenosha casino could require taxpayers to pay FCPC [Forest County Potawatomi Community] hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds of previous payments made to the State. If the Kenosha casino is approved, there are a number of other issues that should be considered:

· the impact of possible expanded gaming in northern Illinois;

· the Menominee’s use of more than 220 acres that would likely be put in trust;

· the cost of litigation;

· the consequences of a delayed casino opening;

· the immediate and long-term impact on our state budget and consequently Wisconsin taxpayers; and,

· the cost of indemnifying FCPC.

The entire report from Secretary Huebsch can be found here.
Did Walker make the right decision?

While I respect his concern in terms of protecting Wisconsin taxpayers from the fallout from the Jim Doyle deals, it's very difficult to pass on this development and the thousands of jobs it would create.

Wisconsin State Senator Van Wanggaard issued this statement:

“While I respect the Governors decision to reject the Kenosha Casino, I believe this is the wrong choice for Kenosha, Racine and Wisconsin. This is especially true given the Menominee’s agreement to indemnify the state for lost revenue.

“Governor Doyle and his sweetheart compact with the Potawatomi have killed the largest private investment in Wisconsin history. This has cost the state over 1,600 jobs and a projected $1 billion in revenue. I will meet with my colleagues in the coming days to evaluate the situation and discuss what options we have to prevent this from occurring in the future.

“The good news is that the 21st Senate District is seeing an economic boom, and the area will continue to prosper even without a casino.”
I'm sure much will be said about Walker's presidential aspirations playing into this, that he buckled from pressure from social conservatives to reject the plan.

I don't think that's it, especially given that Walker's failure to deliver so many jobs to the state is a more pressing matter.

I believe that Walker understands his performance in Wisconsin is his possible ticket to the White House. Everything that happens here at home is a test. It would be a mistake for Walker to focus on how things will play nationally while ignoring the needs of the state.

Yes, Jim Doyle and the Democrats are still managing to screw Wisconsin taxpayers, but obstacles can be surmounted. You have to approach a problem with the conviction that a solution is possible, that there can be a way to achieve a goal.

Bottom line: This is a terrible loss for the state of Wisconsin, and there's plenty of blame to go around.

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