The Wisconsin Business Alliance is deeply disappointed that Governor Walker signed the Open Pit Mining Bill into law today.
As supporters of safe and sensible mining, we suggested several amendments to the bill, including an amendment for job training for Wisconsin residents. In the absence of such training programs, we’re concerned that laid-off mine workers in neighboring Minnesota and Michigan will beat out Wisconsin workers for scarce mining jobs.
We also suggested a robust economic development program to help ensure that the boom-and-bust cycle already seen in northern Wisconsin would not repeat itself.
Further, while most of the mining debate focused on one project in the Penokee Hills, we pointed out that the bill actually affects the entire state. Wisconsin currently enjoys a vibrant outdoor recreation economy, which employs 142,300 Wisconsinites and contributes $11.9 billion annually to Wisconsin’s economy. These sustainable and generational jobs depend upon clean water, fresh air, and wild places. Continued mining development puts almost five percent of Wisconsin’s existing economy at risk, with no promise of new Wisconsin jobs.
Tax dollars that will inevitably be consumed by mining litigation and cleanup could instead be invested in modern infrastructure such as expanded broadband access, solar and wind power, and high-speed rail. These investments would profoundly improve Wisconsin’s economic outlook and its residents’ quality of life.
We urge the governor and our state legislators to start building an economy of the future rather than repeating mistakes of the past.