Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is defending a decision not to seek fines against 3M in a pollution case.
Under the court settlement reached in November, 3M Corp. agreed to make $665,000 in upgrades at two plants in Wausau, while the state opted not to seek fines against the company. During a Joint Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, state Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) questioned the message that action could send to other companies, who may decide to cut costs by violating laws until they are caught. “You’re sending a message to polluters in Wisconsin…that polluters don’t have to pay, they get a deal,” she said.
Schimel defended the decision though, arguing that the concessions made by 3M were far more valuable than any fines the state might have been able to impose. “Why would I want to collect…10,000, 20, 30, $40,000 in forfeitures from this company – it’s a $30 billion company – when I can instead have them commit to long term operations that are going to make the state cleaner,” Schimel said.
Schimel faced several hours of questioning from lawmakers on issues ranging from the Department of Justice’s handling of a backlog of untested sexual assault kits, a pay raise for his communications director, and his office spending $10,000 on challenge coins for law enforcement officers emblazoned with the motto “K.A.E.D.,” which stands for “kicking ass every day.” Schimel told lawmakers he didn’t know the coins would cost that much, and would probably not make a similar purchase again.
Members of JFC continued to hold agency briefings on Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget at the Capitol all day Wednesday, hearing from the secretaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services, and Children and Families, with the heads of the Departments of Revenue and Transportation, along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation scheduled to testify.
The briefings are expected to finish up on Thursday, with statewide public hearings on the budget scheduled to take place next month.