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Walker visits La Crosse, shares hopes for mining bill

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- - Gov. Scott Walker is touring Wisconsin just two days after his State of the State address.

He made a stop in La Crosse on Thursday and spoke about what he hopes to accomplish this year.

Among his top priorities is taking a second stab at a mining bill that would make way for a company to start mining in northern Wisconsin.

Republicans tried to pass a mining bill last year but weren't able to get enough votes.

Now, they're trying again. They released a new version of the bill this week.

While the goal is to bring hundreds of new jobs to the state, the greatest impact in the Coulee Region could be the loss of flood insurance coverage.   


"The ultimate objective is not only the 700 jobs estimated to come with the mine itself but, as a number of economists have suggested, the nearly 3,000 jobs that would come as related to construction of the mine impacted statewide," said Walker.

But local lawmakers say constituents likely won't see many of those new jobs in the Coulee Region.

"It's unknown if many of these jobs would be Wisconsin jobs or if these jobs would go to people out of state who are already skilled in the mining industry," said state Sen. Jennifer Shilling.

What could be impacted in the area is flood insurance coverage.

In the bill that didn't pass last year, the mining company would have been exempt from floodplain management, which would give the Federal Emergency Management Agency grounds to pull national flood insurance coverage for the whole state.

It's a concern that may be part of this year's version, as well.

"It would have put FEMA and the flood map in jeopardy with flood insurance for thousands of homeowners here in western Wisconsin. That again is one of the areas I look at if they continue to exempt the mining industry from those flood regulations, that is troubling for people here in western Wisconsin, and we are all too familiar with flooding here," said Shilling.

"In the La Crosse area, that's a big deal for my constituents. I've talked to legislators in the Republican Party about my concern," said state Rep. Jill Billings.

But when asked about the bill, Walker says flood insurance coverage is not something to worry about.

"There are some concerns that are very legitimate that can be worked out. There have been concerns for example about flooding. I'm not going to sign a piece of legislation that's going to make it difficult to get flood insurance, so that's something that's going to be protected in that legislation," said Walker.

Walker says he is confident Democrats and Republicans can work together to create a bill that will benefit Wisconsin residents and the environment.

He says working on the bill at the start of this legislative session will help make sure it gets passed.

A Democratic state senator is expected to release another version of the mining bill on Friday.

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