Governor Scott Walker says the decision to reject the Menominee Tribe’s proposed Kenosha casino was purely about the potential financial impact of the project, not because of political pressure.
The governor on Friday rejected the $800 million development, citing concerns that the state could have to pay the Forest County Potawatomi up to $100 million if it moved forward. The tribe argues the state would owe money because of a gaming compact negotiated under then-Governor Jim Doyle. The Menominee Tribe signed their own compact this week that would have seen them cover those losses, but Walker says the potential for lawsuits did little to resolve concerns the state could still be on the hook.
AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker on Kenosha casino decision (1:09)
Democrats argued Walker was using the potential for legal action as political cover, as he tries to appeal to conservatives ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid. Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca, who represents Kenosha, said “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.”
Speaking to reporters in Milwaukee Friday, Walker denied politics played any role in his decision. “If it had been done for political reasons, I would have done it a long time ago,” Walker said. “The bottom line is, I said all throughout this process I wasn’t going to make this decision based on politics.”
Walker said staff had been working to resolve the conflict with the Potawatomi for more than year. With a February 19th deadline to make a decision looming though, it was becoming clear that was not going to happen. “We tried to run the clock down as far as we could to a final decision, to see if we could find an agreement…we’re not at a point where we can get that,” Walker said.
Audio courtesy WUWM radio.