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Rep. Kaufert backs off threat to withhold grant money for tribe

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The vice chairman of the State Building Commission backed off Wednesday on a threat to withhold a quarter-million dollars in grant money for the Lac du Flambeau Indian tribe.

Assembly Republican Dean Kaufert of Neenah said a few weeks ago that he wanted to pull back funding that the commission approved in 2011 for a new tribal cultural center.

That was because six Chippewa tribes said they would jack up their federally-approved spearfishing quotas, leaving less fish for sport anglers in northern Wisconsin.

Kaufert pulled back on his threat Wednesday. He said the cold spring hampered spear fishing, and DNR promised him that more fish would be made available for others.

The Building Commission was originally scheduled to consider the funding withdrawal last month, but the panel wanted to give Governor Scott Walker more time to seek a compromise.

Walker announced just a few hours before Wednesday’s meeting that he’ll pursue a major walleye stocking increase that will benefit both sport anglers and tribal fishers.

He said the DNR proposed the program – but agency secretary Cathy Stepp told the AP that the stocking plan had nothing to do with the tribal dispute. She said fish experts have been wanting for years to increase walleye stocks.

Walker’s plan includes $8 million in bonding authority and $2 million in grants. The Joint Finance Committee is expected to consider the funding request in the coming days.