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Some GOP lawmakers oppose Walker’s plan to cut mandated recycling

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Some Republican lawmakers, including a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee in the state Legislature, are objecting to Gov. Scott Walker's plan to eliminate mandated recycling along with the $32-million-a-year funding for local programs.

State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said he questions whether the budget measure would really save money in the long run when balanced with the increased cost of maintaining and building new landfills.

"We're not going to just blindly rubber-stamp everything," said Nygren Monday. "It's definitely something we'll take a look at in Joint Finance. And I'd like to hear more from the governor on this."

The Joint Finance Committee is charged with reviewing the financial impact of budget proposals.

Nygren said he is a strong backer of Walker's budget-cutting measures but has heard several concerns about the proposed elimination of the state recycling program from voters in his district.

"I've heard from some that there is a fear people will just start dumping stuff by the roadside," Nygren said. "I think that is a somewhat legitimate concern .... This is just something we need to do a little more digging on."

Other Republicans have been even more firm in their opposition to the elimination of the state program.

Senators Michael Ellis, R-Neenah, and Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, authored a letter to their constituents last week in which they said they disagree with Walker's plan to eliminate the mandate and discontinue funding. One problem with the proposal, they pointed out, is that though those two programs are eliminated, the laws that require people to recycle and that prohibit putting recyclables in landfills would remain on the books.

"We have long opposed unfunded mandates on local governments by the state," wrote Ellis and Cowles. "The elimination of recycling grants while still prohibiting certain materials from landfills effectively constitutes an unfunded mandate."

Under the program, the $32 million a year allocated to help defray the cost of local community recycling efforts is provided in the form of grants. Ellis and Cowles also raised objections because Walker has proposed diverting that grant money away from recycling and into a newly created fund called the "economic development account."

"That sounds suspiciously to us like a fund transfer, a budgeting maneuver that we have also opposed in past budgets," the legislators wrote.

The legislators concluded that the plan to ax recycling "just doesn't make sense and should be taken out of the budget."

State Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, said Democrats have raised some of the same issues. He also said the proposal to eliminate the recycling program does not take into account the hundreds of jobs that recycling programs have created statewide.

Hulsey said he expects Democrats to join the Republicans to call for a harder look at the proposal.

Walker is looking forward to working with the Legislature on the budget, said his spokesman, Cullen Werwie.

"The governor's main goal is to balance Wisconsin's budget without increasing taxes," Werwie said. "We look forward to working with the Legislature as they explore modifications to specific provisions contained in the budget proposal, as long as the main goal of fiscal discipline remains intact in the final version of the bill."



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