Governor Scott Walker rejects the Menominee Tribe’s proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha.
Walker said in a statement, “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.”
The governor cited continued concerns about a previously negotiated compact between Governor Jim Doyle and the Forest County Potawatomi, which operates a casino in Milwaukee. The tribe has indicated the state may owe them up to $100 million if the Kenosha project were to be approved. (Full story)
Kenosha-area lawmakers react quickly to the governor’s announcement, releasing statements and talking to the media.
Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester):
“I am extremely disappointed in Governor Walker’s decision today. This is a huge loss to the Racine and Kenosha area. We all have a right to be angry and frustrated that we will not gain thousands of jobs, and an $800 million development will be lost.
“Unfortunately, we really have one person to blame, and that is Jim Doyle, for forcing the state into this no-win situation.”
AUDIO: Vos said his phone has been “exploding” with calls. He says there’s a lot of frustration, disappointment, and anger among people living in the area, but the reasoning behind the governor’s decision should become evident over time. :22
Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha):
“This is an economic mistake of colossal proportions. Thousands of people will stay on unemployment lines versus being employed and paying their taxes. These are jobs at no cost to taxpayers and it is absolutely heartbreaking to turn them away.
“As far as I can tell, this is the largest economic opportunity ever passed up by a governor in any state. Gov. Walker is turning down not only up to 10,000 good-paying jobs but also millions of new tourists and other significant economic development opportunities associated with this project – something that on a total bipartisan basis business leaders, local elected officials, community leaders and the citizens of Kenosha and Racine counties have recognized for years.
“Even though Wisconsin still lags behind our neighbors in job creation, the governor continues to show a complete lack of leadership and urgency on creating jobs, growing wages, closing the skills gap and making good on his economic promises to the people of Wisconsin. And instead of helping to make the Kenosha area a recreational destination point for the entire Midwest, we will now likely see these benefits go across the border to Illinois, where leaders recognize the positive economic impact of a project like this.
“I can’t help but wonder if the recent opposition of many Iowa conservative leaders played a role in the governor’s decision. If so, Gov. Walker has once again prioritized his own presidential ambitions over creating jobs and restoring economic opportunity in our state. The governor can no longer claim jobs and tourism are his top priorities, but perhaps pleasing Iowa conservatives are.
“The Menominee Indian Tribe showed a willingness to compromise and work together to make this project a reality. And an international developer with a proven track record signed on to help make this project a success. This project met every one of the Governor’s ridiculous criteria and yet he still turned it down.
“Given all the hard work put into this project, the strong investments made by key stakeholders and the overwhelming local support, the fact that Gov. Walker couldn’t bring people together and find a way to get to yes is a painful failure of leadership that hurts the hopes of thousands of citizens, many of whom had already filed their job applications.”
AUDIO: Barca says the governor can no longer say jobs and tourism are at the top of his priority list. 2:35
Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine):
“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.”
AUDIO: Wanggaard said the way in which the governor reached his conclusion should become more clear in the next few days. :23
Representative Thomas Weatherston (R- Caledonia):
“While I am disappointed in the decision about the casino, I understand the Governor’s reasoning. We all must do what we believe is best for Wisconsin taxpayers.”
During a press event in southeastern Wisconsin after the news broke, Weatherston said he felt like he was delivering a eulogy.
Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem):
“The announcement that Governor Walker has rejected the Kenosha casino comes as a true disappointment. I am saddened at the loss of potential for Kenosha County and for the State of Wisconsin. Great strides were made along the path to this determination and I greatly respect the diligence shown by Governor Walker to try to bring us to a more positive decision. Ultimately, the compact negotiated by Governor Doyle with the Forest County Potawatomi provided more obstacles than could be reasonably overcome in the decision time frame.
We need to keep our focus forward. We will continue to explore other opportunities to bring additional jobs to Kenosha and grow opportunity in southeastern Wisconsin through a pro-job and strong business focus. While this particular option will not move forward, I believe that recent Kenosha boom will spark even more development and look forward to entertaining additional options for growing the Kenosha economy.”
AUDIO: Kerkman’s brief comments :46
State Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha):
AUDIO: Wirch labeled it a “shameful” decision, which has a “hidden agenda.” :37
WRN affiliate WRJN in Racine contributed to this article.