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Wisconsin Budget Panel Approves Mining Bill

The bill has reignited the fight with conservationists, but this time Republicans have a larger majority in the Senate, making passage appear inevitable.

The finance committee's four Democrats ripped the bill Monday as a "sweetheart deal" for Gogebic Taconite. They tried to attach a half-dozen amendments to the bill Monday, including imposing a tax on ore a mining company extracts, removing a $2 million cap on permit application fees, allowing contested cases before the final decision and removing the presumption wetland damage is necessary and ensuring the DNR can't issue a permit unless the agency is certain the mine won't hurt the public.

"We seem hell-bent to move forward on a flawed bill," Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said.

Darling told the Democrats she was getting tired of them misrepresenting the bill. She insisted the bill balances the environment with jobs. Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, the committee's co-chairman, argued people in northwestern Wisconsin are desperate for jobs.

Republicans killed every Democratic amendment on a party-line vote. The debate lasted only a little more than two hours.

"Wisconsin is one step closer to thousands of good-paying jobs in our state," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said in a statement afterward. "This bill provides business a level of certainty that they need in order to invest in Wisconsin and our workforce."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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