Friday, November 27, 2015

Wisconsin open for business, on the quick and dirty

Quick, dirty, minimal and cheap.

It's new Wisconsin Idea, as Republican policy-makers have come up with yet another way of screwing working people and the environment at the same time while evading basic governing and public policy stewardship.

And this fake, small government trifecta, this latest iteration of cynical cold-hearted policy-making in our name has such a cynical twist:

The very conservatives who claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility and allegedly detest federal funding and have rejected if it were to fund more health care coverage for low-income citizens, or broadband upgrades in the information age, of for Amtrak construction are eager to get as much federal highway money but use it as a cudgel against the abutting environment and the very highway workers out there in the heat or the cold who driving the machines or laying the concrete.

That is some nasty bill-drafting and rule-tinkering, let me tell you.

Not content with passing the public-sector wage-limiting Act 10 or its companion, 'right-to-work' law aimed at private sector workers - - and scrapping the long-standing family-supporting "prevailing wage" guarantees for workers on local government road and public building projects - - and easing clean water, wetlands, shoreline preservation and related environmental protections in the state that gave birth to Earth Day - - GOP legislators now want to tinker with and shortcut some formulas and policies to minimize or end environmental protections and wage guarantees now required in big, federally-funded road projects, the Journal Sentinel reports:

The bill by Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Robert Brooks, both Saukville Republicans, would require the state to rejigger how it allocates the federal road funding it receives so that some projects would not have to adhere to federal requirements. Total funding for roads would remain unchanged, but for some projects federal money would be supplanted by state or local money. 
Others would have more federal money — and less local and state money — assigned to them. 
By channeling federal aid into fewer projects, some road work would not have to follow federal policies that are more stringent and costly than state rules. That includes a federal law that sets a minimum pay for those building roads.
This is more than legislators shifting the burden for poor budgeting and special interest obeisance to  workers and the environment we all share pay while repeatedly approving dubious and unaffordable billion-dollar commitments to finance I-39/90 expansion from Beloit to the Dells, or eight-years of planned work in the mammoth Zoo Interchange and also to widen I-94 from Kenosha to Milwaukee without the money or a sustainable financing plan in hand.

This monkeying with road-building-and-financing rules and procedures is another example of this administration's intentional, ideologically-driven preference for quick-and-dirty over common resource protections that ensure public health and safety.

* One of Walker's first administrative actions after being sworn in as Governor was the suspension of an on-going permit review for a development planned by a campaign donor to build a building on a wetland next to Lambeau Field. The Legislature aligned with the Governor also quickly passed a bill to green light the development.

*  This is the same do-the-minimum mindset that has led the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources where Walker installed top managers with a "chamber of commerce mentality" to limit detailed environmental reviews on the proposed expansion of the tar sand oil Pipeline 61 capacity expansion from Superior to the Illinois border to a single pumping station expansion permit application rather than on the pipeline cross-state route.

* The is the same mentality that created the sweetheart iron mining bill approved by the GOP-led legislature with the encouragement of Gov. Walker that would have enabled the creation, through a fast-tracked environmental review tilted towards the company, of the hemisphere's largest open-pit iron mine deeply excavated for miles through the sensitive Penokee Hills/Bad River watershed near Lake Superior.

A drop in demand for iron ore worldwide, plus federal and tribal obstacles beyond the reach of the newly-weakened Wisconsin iron-mining statute, convinced the company to drop the project, but the one-sided law is still on the books.

Wisconsin legislators have found yet another way to twist law and policy - - this time to manipulate road-building finances instead of fixing the way they approve and fund big projects - - and are less interested if nearby rivers or wetlands or private properties are damaged by dirty air or polluted runoff, or if the roadwork work is done by employees with reduced training or skills, or with hammered take-home pay.

No comments: