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A trailblazing African-American union leader has captured the imagination of liberals as a potential challenger to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, should the Republican governor be forced into a recall election in 2012.
Mahlon Mitchell, a Madison Fire Department lieutenant who has never run for political office, has emerged as a possible Democratic candidate. In late October 2011, a movement to draft him surfaced on the Internet and Mitchell said he would consider running against Walker.
In January 2011, Mitchell, then 33, became the youngest person and the first African-American elected president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin union. Mitchell was soon sought out by the national media as a critic of Walker’s collective bargaining changes, which prompted weeks of demonstrations in Madison but exempted Mitchell's members. He has been giving speeches at union rallies and other events around the country.
On Oct. 4, 2011, Mitchell repeated his criticisms of Walker at a Washington, D.C., conference called Take Back the American Dream, which was described in one news report as an attempt to "re-energize disenchanted liberals."
"Let me tell you what the governor did in January" before introducing the bill that stripped collective bargaining rights from most public employees, Mitchell said.
"Any business that comes into the state of Wisconsin from Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota -- two years you don't have to pay any taxes on your income."
Much has happened since Walker made his first legislative moves shortly after taking office in January -- the demonstrations, recall elections of state senators and preparations for the expected launch on Nov. 15, 2011, of the effort to recall Walker.
So, did the governor really grant companies that move to Wisconsin two years of tax freedom?
Mitchell cited Assembly Bill 3, one of the measures introduced in a special legislative session called by Walker in January. It allows a business that moves to Wisconsin to claim a tax deduction for two consecutive years, according to a memo from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Council, which provides legal and other research services to the Legislature.
A memo from Walker’s budget office makes it clear the deduction is equal to the amount of income taxes owed. It is not known, of course, how many companies will take advantage of the deduction, but the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that without such a law, the state would collect $500,000 more per year in taxes.
Walker promoted the measure as one way to create more jobs in Wisconsin.
The bill was approved 82-12 by the Assembly and 24-9 by the Senate, with a total of 29 Democrats voting yes. It was signed into law by Walker on Jan. 31, 2011.
Mitchell said that because of actions taken by Walker, businesses moving to Wisconsin "don't have to pay any (income) taxes" for two years. Walker backed and signed a law that offers such a tax deduction. We rate Mitchell’s statement True.
Interview and email interview, Mahlon Mitchell, Oct. 29 and 31, 2011
Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie, Oct. 31, 2011
JSOnline.com, "Mahlon Mitchell for governor campaign launched," Oct. 28, 2011
Mother Jones, "Wisconsin union chief: ‘Seriously considering a run’ against Scott Walker in a recall," Oct. 27, 2011
Blogging Blue, "Mahlon Mitchell is considering a run for governor," Oct. 27, 2011
MSNBC, "The Ed Show" transcript, Oct. 17, 2011
FreeSpeechTV, Mahlon Mitchell interview, Oct. 4, 2011
YouTube.com, Mahlon Mitchell remarks at Take Back the American Dream Conference, Oct. 4, 2011
Illinois AFSCME Council 31, "We are one rally rocks Chicago," April 11, 2011
YouTube.com, Mahlon Mitchell speech at Fighting Bob Fest, Sept. 17, 2011
People’s World, "Ohio rallies for union rights, voter rights," Aug. 23, 2011
Los Angeles Times, "Labor rally: Thousands attend downtown L.A. labor rally," March 27, 2011
International Association of Fire Fighters, "GP Schaitberger Brings his Message about Attacks on Workers to Capitol Hill," July 26, 2011
AFL-CIO, National Symposium on Jobs, Justice and American Dream article, Aug. 25, 2011
CNN, Mahlon Mitchell interview, March 9, 2011
CNN, Mahlon Mitchell interview, Feb. 23, 2011
CNN, "Mitchell: State employees want to sit down with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker," Feb. 28, 2011
WISN-TV, "Potential challenger emerges in Walker’s recall effort," Oct. 28, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker signs 2 more business incentive bills," Jan. 31, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "United Wisconsin will focus on Walker, Kleefisch," Oct. 22, 2011
Wisconsin Department of Administration, Assembly Bill 3 fiscal estimate, Jan. 10, 2011
Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, "Madisonian becomes first black president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin," Jan. 12, 2011
Wisconsin Legislative Council, Assembly Bill 3 memo, Feb. 7, 2011
Wisconsin Legislature, History of Assembly Bill 3
Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Assembly Bill 3 memo, Jan. 21, 2011
McClatchy Newspapers, "For disenchanted liberals, Obama may still be the only choice," Oct. 10, 2011
Email interview, Wisconsin Department of Revenue communications director Stephanie Marquis, Oct. 31, 2011
Interview, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. spokesman Tom Thieding, Oct. 31, 2011
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