Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and other Republican lawmakers are throwing their support behind a nonbinding resolution backing the Air Force's plan to base a squadron of F-35 fighter jets at Madison's Truax Field.
The language is up for consideration before the state Senate when the chamber convenes later in the day on Tuesday. It's an issue that's divided Madison and Dane County residents and sparked fierce public debate.
Fitzgerald, a Republican congressional candidate in the Milwaukee-area 5th District, said at a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning the proposal is "vital" to both Dane County and the state as a whole.
"It's not about what's going on up in the sky when it comes to the F-35. It's about what's going on on the ground, and it is 'let's maintain Truax, let's maintain the buildings, the units, the civilian personnel, everyone that's involved in Truax right now.' And the way to do that is by making sure that the F-35s are housed at Truax Field in Wisconsin," he said.
Part of his Senate district includes Dane County.
The resolution is also backed by Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield. It also has the support of 12 GOP state representatives.
Others in the upper chamber, though, have yet to weigh in on the language. Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, in an email Monday said he's working on an amendment to the resolution that would stipulate additional environmental impact considerations, particularly related to health and noise concerns.
The veteran lawmaker noted there may be other amendments and that his stance on the resolution itself "depends on how the final draft reads."
Rep. Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc, said during the news conference he expects the resolution would have some sway in D.C.
"I think they're going to see, yes the state Legislature of Wisconsin is supporting this," he said.
The current resolution states, among other things: "The Wisconsin Legislature does hereby recognize the many federal, state, and local contributions of the 115th Fighter Wing and fully supports basing the next generation of freedom fighting aircraft in the state of Wisconsin."
As for the Air Force's plan itself, Madison residents now have until Nov. 1 to weigh in on a draft environmental impact statement assessing the proposal to base F-35 jets at Truax Field. The deadline was originally the end of last month, but officials decided to extend it by 30 days.