Tribe withholding annual payment to state

File photo (MGN Online/WNDU-TV, South Bend)

GREEN BAY - The dispute over a proposed casino and restaurant in Kenosha is having a "significant impact" on the state's budget, said Gov. Scott Walker.

A state Indian tribe that opposes the project is refusing to make an annual payment to the state.

It's unclear exactly how much money the Forest Co. Potawatomi owes the state, but the payment was due at the end of June.

An agreement states the tribe must pay the state 6.5 percent of its net profit at its Milwaukee casino. However, that amount is confidential.

The Menominee Tribe wants to partner with Hard Rock International and build a new casino near Kenosha. The Potawatomi tribe opposes the casino.

The state has until next February to make a decision on the proposal. While in Green Bay Wednesday, Gov. Walker emphasized he's going to take his time to sort out the impacts of the decision.

Walker said complex agreements between state government and Indian tribes are already an issue.

"If I could create a positive decision next week, and I wouldn't have a $100 million hole or something in that range, I'd be inclined to move more quickly," said Walker.

He said the state hopes to come to an agreement that would prevent the state from owing the Potawatomi tribe $100 million if the casino is built.

The $810 million casino would be built on a former race track about 35 miles from the Potawatomi's casino in Milwaukee.

In a statement, a Potawatomi tribe spokesperson said the tribe could get money if another casino is approved within 50 miles of its Milwaukee casino. The tribe said it consequently put its 2014 state payment into a segregated or reserved account.

Estimates show the Potawatomi currently is withholding around $25 million from the state. FOX 11 asked the governor if that was accurate.

"The way the compact was negotiated, we're prohibited from confirming that," he said.

Walker said for now the state could make up the lost money through its rainy day fund.

"No matter what people may think for or against that particular site, I think there would be a really big concern to the rest of the state if a $100 million hole was put in the budget," said Walker.

A Menominee spokesperson wouldn't comment on the Potawatomi's missed payment. However, the Menominee has offered to help pay for state revenue that's lost from other tribes.

Walker's administration says it will continue to work on the issue. State leaders will keep talking with the Potawatomi.

An independent economic study about the casino is also ongoing. The state commissioned the $1.5 million study earlier this year.

The Menominee Tribe released its own economic study Wednesday. Its said the project would create 1,500 construction jobs and 3,000 full-time casino jobs.

The tribe said it would also create 775 full-time jobs on the Menominee reservation in Keshena.

However, the Potawatomi said the project would have a negative impact on the state's economy. They said it would send money out of state, since the Hard Rock Cafe is run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday showed that 49 percent of respondents support the casino and 35 percent oppose it. The poll of 815 registered voters was done between Aug. 21 and Sunday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.