**Updated 6 p.m.

Lawmakers from across Southeast Wisconsin and from both sides of the aisle are urging Gov. Scott Walker to reconsider his rejection of the proposed Kenosha casino.

Walker last week announced he was rejecting the proposed $800 million project because compacts signed years ago with the Potawatomi put state taxpayers at risk.

It a letter signed by Democrats and Republicans from across the state, legislators bluntly tell Walker that they and the residents they serve are disappointed in him.

“As you know, we are greatly disappointed in your announced decision to deny the Hard Rock Casino application in Kenosha County,” the letter reads. “To be frank, the vast majority of our constituents are more than disappointed in your action.”

The group – which includes Racine County legislators Cory Mason, Robin Vos, Tom Weatherston, and Van Wanggaard – call on Walker to use the time remaining until the Feb. 19 deadline to reconsider based on three factors:

  • The compact signed by the Menominee to cover any potential losses incurred by the Potawatomi at the Milwaukee casino complex and covering those losses in payments to the state, thereby protecting state taxpayers. “… as negotiated by your Administration, if the Tribe were to fail in these obligations, they would be forced to cease all gaming operations.”
  • The Menominee and the Hard Rock partners offered to post a bond to protect state taxpayers in the event the state would reimburse the Potawatomi for any losses. Lawmakers note in their letter this offer was put forth less than 18 hours before the governor announced his decision.
  • Lawmakers point out an unlikely positive result if the Potawatomi were to carry out threats to sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs for approving the Kenosha casino and rejecting amendments to their compact with the state. Still, they say, the compact and the bond would protect state taxpayers. “The BIA has been sued many times in the past over rejected compacts and amendments. It has never had a decision reversed by the court,” the letter states. “Even if it were to be successful, the Bond and indemnity agreements would compensate the state.”

Lawmakers dismiss stated worries about lawsuits and losses based on the signed compact between the state and the Menominee and state the size of the investment and the jobs the casino would add would be worth a potential court battle.

In the end, legislators stress the $800 million initial investment, job creation, potential visitors and “a billion dollars (added) to the state treasury over the coming years.

“The 9,000 Menominee tribal members and thousands looking for work in Southeastern Wisconsin are depending on this development to lift them out of poverty. The benefits are too great, the opportunity is too extraordinary, for you to not give this a second look. We know in the remaining three weeks, we can truly make this a win-win-win for Wisconsin.”

In a response emailed to Racine County Eye, Walker is steadfast in his decision.

“The bottom line is due to the compacts negotiated by Governor Doyle, the current cost to taxpayers of approving the proposed casino project is up to $100 million and the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.  The risk to the state’s taxpayers was too great to approve the casino,” Press Secretary Laurel Patrick wrote.

 

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