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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

 9:37 PM 

Compas, Fitzgerald square off on ethics, job creation

JEFFERSON -- Dem Senate candidate Lori Compas took aim at Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald Wednesday for restrictions on collective bargaining and his role in redistricting, while Fitzgerald defended his job creation record and said the Legislature could come back before November to pass mining and venture capital bills.

In front of a crowd largely composed of Compas supporters, the Dem candidate said Fitzgerald was pitting "neighbor against neighbor" by supporting limitations on public employee collective bargaining. She also accused Fitzgerald of a string of other ethical and legal lapses.

"What we're seeing here is a pattern of abuse of power and betrayal of trust," Compas said. "The senator broke the open meetings law, he forced his fellow legislators to sign secrecy pledges, and he didn't campaign on these major policies he imposed on our society. He didn't tell us he wanted to 'divide and conquer' us."

Fitzgerald stood by the outcome of the collective bargaining debate, saying Act 10 was necessary because public employee unions have been shielded from the economic downturns while others have suffered. He also said he did not violate open meetings law and that the redistricting confidentiality agreements were necessary for a proper discussion of the maps.

"It's like any other proposal that you might see," Fitzgerald said. "You have to have a period of time in which there is a creative process, people give and take. That is exactly what happened with everything that was a part of redistricting. The idea that it was done any different from how it was done 10 years ago by Democrats, or 20 years ago before that, is ridiculous."

Fitzgerald touted a series of tax credits passed by the Legislature to aid job creation and stood by figures the Walker administration released last week showing the state gained more than 23,000 jobs in 2011.

Compas said she did not believe the state had created jobs and that restoring education funding for tech colleges and the university system was a better path to economic development.

Fitzgerald also said he hoped the Legislature would return to pass mining and venture capital legislation before the November elections. He once again blamed the failure of the mining bill on Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee.

Compas said she was not opposed to mining, but that if a mining company wants to set up business in Wisconsin, it can follow current laws in place. She also said there was no reason that the mining company should have helped write the legislation.

Fitzgerald responded by saying that individual legislators don't have the expertise in the nuances of mining law that Gogebic Taconite possessed. That answer received a chorus of boos from the audience.

The two candidates shared some agreement that more scrutiny was needed for a company found to have spread excessive human waste over fields in Jefferson County. Compas said the rules were clear and the company got off easy. She also said that the DNR secretary should be appointed by the Natural Resources Board.

"I think this is just an example of politics getting in the way of enforcement," Compas said.

Fitzgerald said he agreed the company should be punished and that their waste spreading permit needs to be reviewed.

"Not only should the corporation pay to have those [water] wells tested, but I think once again, they should do a full review on why this company is permitted, and if they are in violation of the spreading regulations ... that permit should be revoked," Fitzgerald said.

The debate was interrupted multiple times by applause and boos from the crowd. One attendee was removed by police after he shouted at Fitzgerald to explain an interview he gave on Fox News. A Fitzgerald supporter also interrupted Compas when she was discussing collective bargaining, but she was not escorted out.

-- By Jason Smathers

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