Scott Walker finally makes a decision

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is a controversial governor. He began his term in office by taking on the state’s public employee union as part of some dramatic cuts in the state’s budget. Those cuts and his stance on unions led to a recall effort. Walker is a fundamentalist Republican who seemed to act from his principles, that is until he was faced with the Menominee tribe’s request to open a casino in partnership with Hard Rock at the site of a former dog racing track.

In 1989, state regulators with dollar signs in their eyes approved five operating licenses for pari-mutuel greyhound racing in Wisconsin. For a time, race fans and bettors flocked to the tracks in Geneva Lakes, Kaukauna, Lake Delton, Hudson and Kenosha, generating millions for the state and the developers. But once the door opened for Indian casinos, attendance and revenue began to drop. One by one, the tracks went out of business. The era ended Tuesday when the operators of Dairyland Greyhound Park announced they would close the track Dec. 31. Don Walker, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11-10-09

The Menominee tribe bought the 180-acre property and with Hard Rock planned an $800 million casino on the site. Because it was not on the tribe’s reservation, it required the governor’s approval. On January 23rd, Gov. Scott Walker denied the Menominee Nation’s request for permission to build an off-reservation casino in Kenosha, saying that approval of the project could leave the state owing a rival tribe hundreds of millions of dollars.

The decision is devastating for the Menominee, who have been pushing to build a casino at Kenosha’s Dairyland Greyhound Park dog track for years in hopes the facility would pull the tribe out of poverty. But the governor said Friday that the state’s compact with the Forest County Potawatomi requires Wisconsin to refund payments that tribe has made to the state if a Kenosha casino became a reality. “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,” Walker said in a news release. Todd Richmond, Associated Press, 1-23-15

That decision took a year. Walker avoided making a decision while he assessed the impact of the casino on the state and on his political career. He said he would not approve the casino unless all of the tribes in the state agreed – one did not. But the opposition was clear a year ago, he could have vetoed the idea any time last summer. Walker waited, however, until after the November election. After the election, he waited for a member of his staff to finish a study of the impact of the casino on the other tribes and on the state’s finances. In January 2015, the aide issued his report stating the casino could potentially cost the state millions of dollars. Walker finally had the ammunition he needed to support the decision that in all probability was made in July.

In a report that Mike Huebsch, secretary of administration, sent the governor, he pointed out a truism known by every gambler: “It is important to understand that a win-win-win scenario is not possible.” Huebsch also noted that “given the loss of revenue at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino (22%) there would be negative economic and fiscal impacts in Milwaukee County.” The report said the Ho-Chunk tribe would see its revenue fall by 16%. Nathan predicted that in 2021 a Kenosha casino would take $138 million in gaming revenue from the Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi casinos. Cary Spivak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1-24-15

If Walker was still in doubt, he received a little extra incentive from a group of Republican lawmakers in Iowa. They warned Walker that by approving an off-reservation Indian casino he would eliminate any chance of being chosen the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

Social conservatives in Iowa are urging Gov. Scott Walker, who is considering a run for president, that he could lose support in their state if he approves the casino. Bob Vander Plaats, the president and chief executive officer of The Family Leader, wrote a letter urging Gov. Scott Walker to deny a proposed Menominee tribal casino in Kenosha. Tom Coates, executive director of Consumer Credit of Des Moines, wrote Walker after his November re-election and sent him a petition against gambling expansion he said had been signed by 600 Republicans. “The increased societal problems of divorce, bankruptcy, debt, depression and suicide, and the additional cost to local governments to handle these problems and the crimes associated with gambling far outweigh any perceived advantages that may be provided by expanded gambling,” Vander Plaats wrote last month. Patrick Marley/ Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1-17-15

Governor Walker has denied that he waited until after the November election, saying that he needed more time to study the issue. He also denied that a potential run for the presidency influenced his decision. Who could question Walker’s integrity? He is the son of a Baptist minister and said to be a very honest man. However, Scott Walker did run straight to Iowa to make a speech and prepare himself for the next step on the political ladder.

Good reviews from the Iowa Freedom Summit keep pouring in for Scott Walker. The Wisconsin governor may have helped his presidential ambitions with his speech Saturday urging the GOP faithful to “go big and bold.” Walker’s plain-spoken remarks touting his record, including fighting labor unions, and his reminder that he went to grammar school in Plainfeld, Iowa, were a hit at the first big gathering of Republican presidential hopefuls. “While the event was billed as the kickoff to the Iowa caucuses, Walker used it as his own coming out party,” wrote Craig Robinson, a former political director for the Iowa Republican Party and founder of a popular GOP website. “Nobody had a better day in Iowa than Walker.” Catalina Camia, USA Today, 1-26-15

Only days after traveling to the early presidential race state of Iowa, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has formed a committee to help explore a bid for the White House, taking the next swift step toward an increasingly likely run…the Republican governor quietly formed a federal committee called “Our American Revival” that can raise unlimited donations to advance his potential candidacy and agenda. Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 1-27-15

I don’t think a run for the White House was exactly what Congress had in mind when it passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Congress did not want tribes to be able to move off-reservation with their casinos without the approval of local authorities, other tribes and the governor. In that spirit it granted veto power to governors. Scott Walker exercised that veto. I wonder how another governor might have treated the issue, one who did not want to be president. It was unfortunate timing for the Menominee tribe. Walker might make a good presidential candidate, even a good president, but he was not good for the Menominee.


1 Response to “Scott Walker finally makes a decision”

  1. 1 Saleh Stevens Trackback on March 10, 2015 at 10:11 pm

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