Superior Days IssuesFor 25 years, Superior Days delegates have hauled a short list of legislative issues down to Madison. Over the course of two hours Wednesday, they will present the items to every state legislator in teams.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
For 25 years, Superior Days delegates have hauled a short list of legislative issues down to Madison. Over the course of two hours Wednesday, they will present the items to every state legislator in teams.
“If each individual knows and understands what’s in the overview, they’ll be just fine,” said Douglas County Supervisor and Superior Days team leader Mary Bergman. “I think the most important thing for people to remember is legislators are people just like we are and we need to talk to them like they’re one of us.”
Superior Days delegates got a brief overview of the issues last week. Team leaders divvied up the issues and started gathering information on the legislators they will meet next week.
“These people have their own agenda,” said Mike Bodeen of Wascott. “I think you’ve got to be as candid as possible, as pointed as possible.” And he aims to tailor each presentation to the lawmaker.
This year, the list is heavy on research opportunities and light on dollar amounts.
“One of the things we’re very aware of on the trip to Madison is the state is broke,” said Superior Mayor Dave Ross. The growing deficit creates one of the most challenging environments in Superior Days history, he said.
Of the six legislative issues being touted this year, only one has a price tag. Delegates are asking the legislature to commit to allocating $500,000 annually toward the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve.
In 2008, Gov. Jim Doyle nominated a 15,000-acre area of the St. Louis River for NERR designation, encompassing the St. Louis River Streambank Protection Area, the area commonly known as Dutchman’s Creek, the City of Superior’s Municipal Forest and Wisconsin Point Conservation Area. Designation of the site, which would be the second freshwater NERR site in the nation, is expected this fall.
“The governor is committed to it, local partners are committed to it,” said Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior, and the state is online to provide matching funds needed to pull in federal dollars. Instead of the annual required amount of $236,000, Superior Days delegates will lobby for $500,000 in state funds annually for the NERR. The additional funding would be used for increased programming to extend the impact of research operations and education to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
“Water is life and the quality of water determines the quality of life,” Milroy said. “It’s important to be good stewards of our aquatic resources.”
Delegates will be pressuring legislators to enter into a new Wisconsin-Minnesota income tax reciprocity agreement. The former agreement was terminated in September of 2008 by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. If you live in one state but work in the other, you will have to file two tax returns in 2011 for the 2010 tax year.
“I think the tax reciprocity is very important because that means actual money in people’s pockets,” said Rhoda Nagorski, director of Senior Connections. “People are going to have to pay to have their taxes done; there’s no question in my mind about that.”
At Murphy Oil Inc. USA, employees are looking for ways to claim the highest number of deductions so less tax is taken out, according to Community Relations Manager Aimee Curtis.
“Well, that works fine except for you better be saving the rest of that money because you’re going to have to pay in,” she said.
University of Wisconsin-Superior student Jeremy Brickley will be speaking to legislators about tax reciprocity, which affects him closely.
“My dad and my brother work here in Wisconsin yet live in Minnesota,” he said. His father works for Sara Lee and his brother is employed by Super One Foods.
“My dad and I had a discussion not long ago,” Brickey said. “He’ll have to file double tax returns for both states. He’s saying this year he’s going to change his deductions. It was something he’ll definitely be thinking more about.”
Approximately 80,000 Wisconsin taxpayers who work in Minnesota will be affected by the reciprocity, Ross said, most from border towns like Superior or Hudson.
“We’re asking in a respectful way that it be worked out,” he said.
Minnesota canceled the agreement because they were not getting payments from Wisconsin in a timely manner. Since more Wisconsin residents work in Minnesota, Wisconsin always has to pay back taxes collected. Superior Days delegates don’t want to point fingers or lay blame, Ross said, they just want legislators to come up with a new agreement.
A bill creating a non-motorized trail maintenance program with a starting pot of nearly $10 million in state DNR funds is also being highlighted by Superior Days members.
“We are hoping the current bill in the legislature would move forward and provide funding,” said Peter Nordgren, secretary of the Brule-St. Croix chapter of the North Country Trail Association.
Although it is a statewide issue, he said, its impacts would be felt regionally. If funds are approved, they could be used for Superior Municipal Forest trails, hiking trails at Pattison and Amnicon state parks, ski trails in the Brule River State Forest and the North Country National Trail.
A 2008 legislative study committee found a lack of consistent funding and maintenance for non-motorized trails, with many being poorly maintained. That report gave rise to the bill.
“Foot-powered recreation is popular,” Nordgren said, with surveys pointing out that it is one of the most popular ways of getting outdoors for exercise.
“It’s important to have trails where they’re easily accessible,” he said, to allow access to natural locations people wouldn’t otherwise see.
Trails are more than footpaths. Signs and bridges along the path wear out and must be replaced. In addition, new sections of trail need to be added.
Superior Research Institute
Research is the focus of two additional Superior Days issues. Delegates will lobby for a state-of-the-art maritime research and outreach facility on Montreal Pier in the city of Superior. The facility would not only house UWS research programs but has the potential to support a variety of city, regional, state and federal agencies as well as non-governmental agencies that engage in Great Lakes maritime research and education. Work at the site would focus on water quality, maritime commerce, logistics and much more.
“It’s a kind of structure that is going to be fairly broadly based,” said UWS Chancellor Julius Erlenbach, with labs as well as space for visiting scientists who are working on projects.
The facility is presently in the concept stage, he said. Presenting it this year will put it on the radar for the future.
“We might tickle them,” said Domenic Picinich, a Solon Springs High School senior who will tout the issue in Madison next week.
It’s important to get the word out about current and future needs, he said.
“We’re way up here. Some senators and representatives don’t always get the word from up here,” Picinich said. “We’re bringing the word to them.
“Knowledge is power.”
Research facility at USGS dock in Ashland
Although a research facility at the U.S. Geological Survey Research Vessel Kiyi dock site in Ashland has been planned since 2003, no funding is being requested for it this year.
In a multi-phase project, the site is being upgraded to better support the USGS’ research on Lake Superior fisheries and aquatic resources for the US and Canadian governments.
In 2000, the newly built 107 foot Research Vessel Kiyi was commissioned, and commenced its mission to support research and monitoring of fish communities of Lake Superior. From 2000–2006, the historic 100-year-old SooLine Ore Dock in Ashland served as the temporary home port for the Kiyi. A new dock facility was completed in 2009 with federal funds, city- donated land and project leadership from the Ashland Area Development Corporation.
Once the new private road to the dock facility is completed in 2010, the next phase can be launched – a $7 million research facility located near the dock. Currently, the USGS science and support facility, which has been in Ashland since 1957, is more than a mile away from the dock and does not provide adequate office, meeting, and laboratory space to effectively support the USGS Lake Superior research program.
The USGS is an important component of Ashland’s economy. There is a $1 million direct boost to the economy through seven full time and three part time jobs, fuel and supplies with the existing facilities. The additional economic benefits of the new research facility would be a minimum of another $1 million from visiting scientists/students, visiting vessels, conferences, expanded staff salaries and visitorship, according to Dale A. Kupczyk, Ashland Area Development Corporation Executive Director.
“Even though we know budgets are tight, this project has been in the works for a number of years,” Kupczyk said. “It takes time; we want to do things right.”
The facility was a Superior Days issue in 2007 and when the road is completed this spring, AADC will return to Madison next year looking for funding. Federal funding will also be sought.
The combined facility would enhance state and federal research programs on Lake Superior and provide research and educational opportunities to regional schools, colleges and universities. It would provide a public outreach program to increase public awareness of Lake Superior and its fish and aquatic resources. It would also benefit the regional economy by serving as a regional, national and international center for research and education focused on Lake Superior and attracting visitors, scientists and students.
For more information on the legislative issues, as well as items that will be presented at agency meetings throughout the Superior Days event, look it up online at http://www.superiordays.com/.