Several days ago I suggested that Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker's next budget could be his worst, given his track record for politicizing DNR management, slashing regulatory inspections and enforcement programs, gutting science staff levels and serving GOP donors:
In his last budget, Walker proposed freezing for thirteen years all state land conversation purchases through a DNR-managed borrowing program, ended all state spending for state parks, and axed a swath of DNR science staffers to further his pro-commerce, pollution-enabling deregulation of the state's land, air and water.
While the Legislature restored some of the land purchase borrowing, I'd expect more cuts to the DNR, and perhaps more movement towards selling park naming rights, or even park land itself to fulfill Walker's purported love for small government.Enter yet another player with a reputation of opening State Capitol doors to favored insiders: Joel Kleefisch - - Oconomowoc GOP Assemblyman and spouse to GOP Lt. Gov. and Scott Walker-replacement-in waiting Rebecca Kleefisch.
Joel Kleefisch is the quintessential GOP/Tea Party hypocrite who rants about smaller government while holding down a government-paid job complete with taxpayer-paid, tax-free meal and mileage per diem accounts, and whose wife has an even bigger taxpayer-paid job, too.
Joel Kleefisch is quoted in an August 5th story in the Wisconsin Outdoor News about his telling a July conference he hoped State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos would name him the replacement after the November elections for outgoing Assemblyman All Ott, (R-Forest Junction), to chair the Assembly Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage Committee.
That would give outdoors' enthusiast Joel Kleefisch greater authority over everything from hunting seasons - - he was the legislator who drove the now-suspended and especially-cruel, dog-assisted wolf hunt, is a big fan of the DNR's efforts to import elk for a herd big enough for a hunt someday, and who also really, really wanted to hunt what he called 'ribeye-in-the-skies' sandhill cranes - - to broader issues, like mining, shoreline development, public land sales, groundwater deregulation, and other 'resource' areas where private sector special interests have already won legislative or administrative concessions from Walker, his 'chamber of commerce mentality' DNR and the Legislature.
Also important about the published report - - I'm hoping to get a link for readers - - is what Joel Kleefisch had said about recent cuts to DNR science staffing - - which he defended as as basic legislative decision-making - - and possible further cuts to Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund land purchasing.
On the one hand, Joel Kleefisch said scientific knowledge is needed - - so, yea, for that bit of common sense, though he also admitted "he doesn't have the science on CWD", so anyone else see the contradiction there?
He also said the next Walker budget might actually have an increase in science staff funding - - so, again, yea, for that - - but Kleefisch also said such an increase "may come at a cost to programs, such as stewardship," so boo to a signal that special interests who want to push development into land which could be saved for public purposes like access and storm water runoff and wooded-and-wetland hunting and fishing reserves still have Walker's budgetary ear.
Truth is that Walker and the Legislature should not have cut DNR science staffing and reduced Stewardship funding, and degraded DNR environmental responsibilities by folding them into an ideologically-managed business services division, especially given all the feedlot groundwater pollution controls and other public health water orders coming our way because of public pressure and "imminent" US EPA directives to fix five years of Walker's bobbing and weaving.
Kleefisch also said in the story that he intends to serve two more terms in the Legislature and then re-enter the private sector (he's a former television station reporter).
Maybe in four years, Rebecca Kleefisch will be Governor. Maybe that's the plan?
Regardless, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Natural Resources has got to be seen as more than a legislative preserve for special interest water carriers like Joel Kleefisch - - since all the resources of the state, including its wildlife belong to all the people - - but I have little faith that Robin Vos can see that forest for the trees.