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Recall fight The Wall Street Journal reports that what started out as a fight over collective bargaining has grown into a “high-stakes, high-dollar referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker and central elements of his party’s fiscal agenda.” And a new poll shows Walker has a slim lead in the June recall race.

Wage gap MLive reports on a new report that finds a persistent wage gap between men and women in America. Michigan has the 10th highest gap of all states, with women there making only 74 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Indiana has the 6th highest gap. There, women make 28 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

Not ready for college About 30 percent of Indiana students who enter college have to take “remedial” classes once they get there, according to a new report.

Rail expansion Norfolk Southern is planning a $160 million expansion of its rail yards in Bellevue, Ohio. The expansion is expected to create 275 jobs according to the AP.

Lower taxes The Dayton Daily News examines Ohio income taxes and finds that rates are at their lowest level in 30 years.

You’re on your own Michigan’s Office of Regulatory Reinvention is recommending that the state end oversight for 18 occupations and 9 boards. Partner station Michigan Radio has a full list of the recommendations.

The petition signatures have all been counted, and now it’s up to Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board to schedule recall elections.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

That is likely to happen on Friday. The board meets at 9 am CT, and you can watch its deliberations live.

The board’s staff released signature tallies on Thursday on recall petitions for Gov. Scott Walker and the state’s lieutenant governor.

There were 931,053 signatures collected for Walker’s recall; 26,114 were discarded by the staff; 4,001 were found to be duplicates and 900,938 were declared valid. That’s far more than required to hold an election. Four state Senators also face recall elections.

If the elections are held, the staff recommended a primary take place on May 8 and the general election, if needed, on June 5.

Read all our coverage of Walker and the Wisconsin elections here.

 

 

Wah Wah Shell has chosen Pittsburg for a new $2 billion plant to process natural gas. The Wall Street Journal says the plant is expected to create thousands of jobs. Ohio leaders were hoping the plant would be built in their state.

Whoopsie Two weeks ago, a state press release in Indiana promoted the MBC Group as an example how the state’s new Right to Work law is creating jobs. One problem: the president of the MBC Group says Right to Work played no role in his company’s decision to expand.

Big money The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on the “staggering” amount of money being spent on the Scott Walker recall campaign. The amount is more than double the amount previously spent on any statewide campaign in Wisconsin.

Calling all angels The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that angel investing in Wisconsin reached over $61 million last year.

Immigrant entrepreneurs Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a series of workshops to help immigrants launch small businesses.

Primed for the primary Partner station WBEZ reports that Newt Gingrich was in Illinois yesterday. Other candidates will be in the state today, as the Illinois primary race gets going.

Damage done It’s only property A tornado ripped through the small Southeast Michigan village of Dexter yesterday. No one was hurt.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is in the middle of a contentious recall fight, which has made headlines around the country.

But one story that hasn’t gotten as much attention is the ongoing criminal investigation involving a number of Scott Walker’s former staff members. The investigation is centered on Scott Walker’s time as Milwaukee’s county executive. So far, a half dozen of Walker’s former staffers have been charged with various crimes related to the mishandling of funds.

Walker has mostly remained above the fray. But Friday, Walker announced that he’s started a legal defense fund.

A spokesman for Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the governor has been told “he is not a target of this investigation.”

But the paper’s watchdog columnist, Daniel Bice, reports that there are very clear restrictions on when elected officials are allowed to create legal defense funds.

From Bice’s column:

“The only way you can set that up is if you are under investigation or being prosecuted,” said Michael Maistelman, an election lawyer who is representing former Walker aide Tim Russell in the John Doe investigation. “One can only draw the conclusion that either one of those two things is happening.”

The prosecutor in the case is, not surprisingly, not commenting. But Bice says investigators have been looking into possible election law violations for 22 months. One former Walker staffer has already pleaded guilty. Another one was due in court today on embezzlement charges, but couldn’t make it because of an illness.

Walker is expected to meet with investigators later this month.

A new angle The head of the UAW says the union will try to get voters to approve an amendment to the Michigan constitution to ban Right to Work legislation. Right to Work bans employers from agreeing to mandatory union membership for their workers.

Taking them to task A new task force is declaring war on corruption in Detroit, according to the Detroit Free Press.  An FBI official says corruption in the city is “generational, systematic, part of the culture.”

Total recall Wisconsin election officials say recall votes will have to wait until at least June.

Some gain, still pain Illinois added jobs again last month, proof that the state is recovering – but at a “painfully slow rate,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Hold the confetti CNNMoney takes a look at manufacturing in Ohio, and says the “good times are back (sort of).”

Movies move on Interest in Michigan as a movie-making destination continues to drop. The state dramatically cut back its film incentives last year.

Happy Birthday Chicago turns 175 years old on Sunday!

Manufacturing promises Reuters asks economists whether the new political focus on manufacturing will actually create jobs. The answer is, basically, no.

Driving downloads The state of Ohio is spending $10 million to increase its broadband internet speeds tenfold between colleges and universities.

It’s over After 13 weeks, the Cooper Tire lockout in Findlay Ohio is finally over. The Toledo Blade reports that workers approved a new five-year contract yesterday. They could be back in the plant later this week.

Split opinions Yesterday, we asked “Who gets credit for the bailout?“ Meanwhile, the BBC looked into why opinions of the auto industry bailout are split, even in Michigan.

Want to become a landlord? The federal government has a new plan to auction off foreclosed homes owned by Fannie Mae and turn them into rental homes. Chicago is one of the first cities where it will happen.

Ready for a recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has decided not to challenge any of the 1 million recall signatures filed against him. That means the recall election will almost certainly move forward.

Something fishy The US Supreme Court once again declined to weigh in on the debate over what to do about Asian Carp. Partner station WBEZ has the story.

UAW speech President Obama will give a speech to UAW members at a conference in Washington this morning. The event starts at 11:45, and you can watch it live here.

Big day There’s something going on in Michigan today. What was it? Maybe Michigan Radio can help.


This is the second in a two-part series about what’s changed for public workers in Wisconsin, one year after labor protests gripped the state (part one is here).

Niala Boodhoo

Cory Roberts says he worries what will happen to his fellow firefighters after a number of towns in Wisconsin have tried to balance their budgets by increasing pension and healthcare costs for public safety workers.

The Capitol building in Madison is amazing – anyone can just walk in. And in Madison, people often do just visit, like Brian Austin, who often brings his children here.

Austin is a detective with the City of Madison’s police department. He was also one of the tens of thousands who packed this building in protest when Gov. Walker proposed limiting union rights for public workers. The law – Act 10 – passed anyway. So Austin says when he goes into the building now, he can’t help think of it as a “completely different” building – and he means that in both a positive and a negative way.

His ambivalence is because he says Walker has brought the Wisconsin workers together – even though they’re suffering now.

The Wisconsin state worker’s union estimates that some 22,000 public employees are taking home 13 percent less pay since the law has taken effect. As it was written, public safety workers like police officers were supposed to be exempt.

But now, police and firefighters are finding, they, too, are facing increased pension and health care costs.

“We knew there was going to be a slippery slope,” says Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the state’s largest police union.

“Economic conditions that are impacting Wisconsin aren’t going to go away,” Palmer says. “And we knew that if municipalities in this state continue to see a shortfall, and if police and firefighters are the only ones with collective bargaining rights, we would be next.”

Last fall, the city of Madison saved more than $2 million when the mayor asked police and fire unions to renegotiate their contracts. Now, workers are contributing three percent more to their pensions and are paying for their own uniforms. In return, no one was laid off or furloughed.

Palmer – the union rep – says that’s how collective bargaining is supposed to work. But it’s hasn’t been so agreeable elsewhere.

In a decision that’s yet to be announced, the Wisconsin police union and Eau Claire County have gone before the state labor board over police contracts there. Eau Claire’s corporate counsel, Keith Zehms, says the county is simply following the law.

“Our position is based on the change that the state legislature made in the law last summer,” Zehms says.

Zehms isn’t talking about Act 10. He’s referring to the state budget. It contained language allowing municipalities leeway in negotiating health care contracts for all of its workers – including public safety.

And that’s why some local governments are saying police and firefighters have to pay more on health care costs – regardless of what the union says. So the unions are fighting back. As of now, there are at least three court cases going on in Eau Claire, but also Milwaukee and Green Bay.

At issue is whether the unions have the right to bargain over health care costs – how much workers pay for deductibles and premiums.

Back at the capitol building in Madison, Detective Austin walks outside to where about one hundred people were singing. It’s a noonday protest that has occurred every day since last Feb. 14, when the protests really began. Austin isn’t the only public safety worker in the crowd.

Madison firefighter Cory Roberts says he’s there because even though his union has reached an agreement with his city, he’s worried about his colleagues elsewhere.

“People say you have amazing benefits,” Roberts says. “but, you know, those were negotiated in lieu of wages at some point.”

Roberts is holding a sign that says “Recall Scott Walker.” Last month, Wisconsin Democrats turned in one million signatures to recall Walker. His Republican supporters have until the end of this month to challenge the signatures.

Austin and Roberts both said something you hear echoed more than a few times by public safety workers in Wisconsin. Before last year, they stayed out of politics. But now, they’re actively engaged – trying to get the governor voted out of office.


Party like it’s 1998 Ford is reporting its highest annual earnings in over a decade. The Wall Street Journal says the auto industry’s profits are part of its new math: sell fewer cars, make more money (subscription required).

Curiouser and curiouser Keeping track of Wisconsin politics gets more complicated by the day. While the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is still busy counting recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that two of the governor’s former aids have been charged with illegal campaigning. The charges are part of an ongoing “John Doe” investigation of Walker’s staff during his time in county government. Despite the investigation and the recall threat, Walker’s poll numbers are rising.

Meanwhile, in actual economic news, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to ease the way for a proposed Iron ore mine in the state’s northern region. Republicans say it will create jobs. Democrats say the changes could lead to environmental harm.

190 Acres of transformation In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, a 190-acre industrial site represents, in microcosm, the changes facing the Midwest. Officials in the town of Beachwood are hoping to rezone the property as the industrial sector declines and other sectors grow. Officials say they want to see the property used for health care, retail and residential investment.

Obama talks higher ed President Obama will be in Ann Arbor, Mich. today to talk about his ideas for higher education funding.


Although he faces a much-publicised recall effort, Wisconsin voters aren’t negative on Gov. Scott Walker,

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a new survey shows.

A poll by Marquette University shows that Walker’s approval rating is above his disapproval rating for the first time since he took office, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Voters approve of Walker’s performance 51 percent to 46 percent disapproval. Fifty percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, versus 46 percent who do not.

Walker also has single-digit leads over Democrats who might face him in a recall election.

The governor’s performance ratings bounce around a bit, depend on which organization is conducting the poll, the Journal-Sentinel says.

The most recent nonpartisan public polls on Walker were done last fall. Walker’s approval rating was 38% in a November survey by Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College; it was 47% in an October survey by Public Policy Polling; 49% in an October survey by Rasmussen; and 42% in an October survey by Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. These polls all have different methodologies, so some variation is normal.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker might have preferred to forget last week, when a truck filled with more than 1 million recall signatures showed up in Madison. But over the weekend, Walker got a pep talk from one of the state’s most fiery orators.

Former governor Tommy Thompson, a Republican who is running for the United States Senate, threw his enthusiastic support behind Walker and his efforts to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

His pro-Walker comments came at a rally in Wauwatosa.

According to the paper,

“In the middle of the speech, Thompson took off his blue sportcoat to reveal a red Wisconsin coat with a large W. “We are a red state and we are not going to let them take it back to a blue state,” Thompson said.

“We are Wisconsin. We are Republicans. We’re taking our state back. The only thing better than Scott Walker winning the first time is Scott Walker winning the second time. We are going to show them once and for all that we are for real and we are not going back.”

Thompson concluded, “W is for Win, W is for Walker and W is for Wisconsin.”

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Web Cam, showing state accountability board staffers verifying the petition signatures, is getting bigger than ever. Its parody Twitter account now has 1,201 followers (although it’s still only following the Reverend Al Sharpton).

Signature verification in Wisconsin becomes a Web darling.

If you checked it out last week, here’s an explanation of what those staffers are doing.