- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 7, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Latest on action in the Wisconsin Legislature (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

One of the leaders of the Legislature’s finance committee says Republicans are looking at options as they consider Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to give parents a $100 per child tax credit.

Walker announced the proposal during his State of the State address last month. He wants to provide a $100 per child tax rebate check to parents this year. That would cost $122 million, which would come out of the state’s surplus. Walker wants to give parents a refundable $100 per child refundable tax credit in ensuing years.

Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, told reporters Wednesday that GOP legislators considering options for changing Walker’s plan. One idea is giving parents a one-time rebate rather than making the tax credit ongoing.


2:37 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker says he thinks compromise is possible on a bill that would allow building on state wetlands without a permit.

The proposal is undergoing changes to address concerns of environmentalists that it would expose too many wetlands to development.

Walker says he would “certainly take a look” at whatever the Legislature may pass. He says it is possible “to balance both preserving our natural resources and having a growing economy.”

Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Rob Cowles on Wednesday released a new version of the bill that would exempt fewer wetlands from protection. Under the proposed change only those wetlands within half a mile of a populated area would lose legal protection.


2:20 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker says he knows his proposed job-retention tax credits for Kimberly-Clark could lead to other companies in Wisconsin seeking the same deal.

Walker wants the Legislature to approve increasing job-retention tax credits from 7 percent of payroll to 17 percent to entice Kimberly-Clark Corp. not to close a pair of factories in the Neenah area and eliminate about 600 jobs.

Walker says his priority is protecting the jobs. He says the tax credit he’s seeking is preferable to other ideas, including one by Democratic Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson to create a fund to help paper makers.

Walker says that fund doesn’t necessarily translate to jobs.

Republican legislative leaders said earlier Wednesday they didn’t know if the tax incentive for Kimberly-Clark would pass.


1:55 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker says he’s “not in any way suggesting” that he supports toll roads for Wisconsin, and he’d only enact them if there are corresponding tax cuts elsewhere.

Walker reacted Wednesday to Republican legislative leaders repeating their support for tolling as a way to raise money to receive federal money for roads.

Walker says whether it’s tolling or raising the gas tax, he would only consider it if there’s an equal or greater tax cut.

President Donald Trump last month called on Congress to pass a $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan.

Walker says he has “no doubt” that the state will be able to meet whatever federal match is required should Congress pass the bill.


1:50 p.m.

A key Senate Republican is making more changes to a bill that would allow developers to build on state wetlands without a permit.

The original bill would have let developers fill state wetlands anywhere in Wisconsin without a Department of Natural Resources permit.

The bill’s authors, Assembly Majority leader Jim Steineke and Senate President Roger Roth amended the bill last week to allow unregulated filling of up to an acre or urban wetlands, defined as wetlands within a mile of an incorporated area or an area served by a sewage system, as well as up to 3 acres per parcel outside urban areas.

Ducks Unlimited has complained the bill would expose untold wetland acres to development.

Sen. Robert Cowles, chairman of the Senate natural resources committee, released a new version of the bill Wednesday that would redefine urban wetlands as wetlands within a half-mile of an incorporated area or an area with a sewage system.

He has scheduled a committee vote on his version of the bill for Thursday.


12:10 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker isn’t putting the brakes on the idea of tolling on Wisconsin interstates.

But he’s also not hitting the accelerator on the idea, either.

Walker’s spokesman Amy Hasenberg said Wednesday that any revenue increase to pay for roads in Wisconsin, including tolling, must be offset by a comparable tax cut elsewhere. That’s been Walker’s position on raising gas taxes for roads, also.

Republican legislative leaders are reiterating their support for tolling in Wisconsin as a way to access federal infrastructure money. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says it’s the only revenue-raising idea for roads that will pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

The federal government would have to sign off on toll roads before they could be implemented.


11:50 a.m.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson says Gov. Scott Walker should push to create a fund to help the paper-making industry rather than calling for tax credits to keep two northeastern Wisconsin plants open.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. plans to close two Neenah plants as part of a company-wide scale-back. Walker wants legislators to increase job-retention tax credits for the company from 7 percent of payroll to 17 percent.

Nelson, a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday that he’s been warning Walker that the paper industry is suffering, noting Appleton Coated, Appvion and U.S. Paper Convertors in Outagamie County have shed hundreds of jobs since last year.

He says the state needs industry-specific strategies beginning with a $30 million fund to help papermakers.

A Walker spokeswoman didn’t immediately reply to an email.


11 a.m.

Gov. Scott Walker says he’s open to giving counties more control over juvenile prisons as part of a plan he’s working on with the Legislature.

But Walker told the Wisconsin Counties Association at a meeting Wednesday that all 72 counties must be on board with the plan for it to work. Walker says, “We have to have buy-in across the state.”

He says if even one county objects the plan it won’t work.

Walker is reiterating that he wants the Legislature to pass a juvenile prison overhaul plan before it adjourns next month that would move juveniles out of the troubled Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake prisons and open five new regional prisons across the state.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he hopes to have an agreement on the juvenile prison plan by early next week.


10:20 a.m.

The Legislature’s finance committee is set to approve spending $6.8 million on ads persuading people to relocate to Wisconsin.

The committee is scheduled to vote on a bill Wednesday afternoon that would hand the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation $6.8 million to develop the campaign targeting veterans and millennials from other Midwestern areas, particularly Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago. Committee approval would clear the way for full votes in the Assembly and Senate.

WEDC launched a separate $956,000 ad campaign in January targeting millennials in Chicago. Those ads center on Wisconsin’s shorter commute times.


The bill is AB 811/SB 679.


9:55 a.m.

Wisconsin Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the only way the state will access federal money for infrastructure is implementing open-road tolling.

Fitzgerald said Wednesday that tolling is the only thing that makes sense for Wisconsin to make whatever match is necessary to access its share of the $1.5 trillion in federal funding for all 50 states that President Donald Trump announced last month.

Gov. Scott Walker has said that he would be open to raising the gas tax to pay for transportation if there’s a cut elsewhere. But Fitzgerald says there isn’t support in the Senate to raise the gas tax or vehicle registration fees, but there is backing for tolling.

Walker last year vetoed $2.5 million for a study into interstate tolling, a move that requires federal approval.


9 a.m.

Wisconsin Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he expects “chaos” as the Legislature rushes to complete its business over the next several weeks.

Fitzgerald joined other legislative leaders Wednesday at a meeting of the Wisconsin Counties Association. Prior to the meeting, Fitzgerald said that the Senate still has not determined which proposals, including those put forward by Gov. Scott Walker, will pass.

But both Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says a measure that’s a priority of counties and local governments will not pass this year. That’s a proposal to remove the so-called “dark stores” loophole to force mega-retailers like Menards to pay more in local property taxes.

Vos says he thinks lawmakers are on the cusp of an agreement on overhauling the state’s juvenile prison system.

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