Thursday Morning Wisconsin News Headlines

Posted: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 -- 5:16 a.m.


Wis. AG attends budget speech on crutches

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was hobbling around the state Assembly chamber ahead of Governor Scott Walker's budget address Wednesday night.

Van Hollen showed up for the speech Wednesday evening on crutches and wearing a rehabilitative boot on his right foot. State Justice Department spokeswoman Dana Brueck says Van Hollen had surgery last month for bone spurs.


Walker proposes adding 710 government employees

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Governor Scott Walker is proposing hiring 710 new state employees over the next two years.

Walker proposed the additional hiring in the budget he delivered to lawmakers on Wednesday.

The Department of Health Services would see the biggest increase with an addition of 280 positions. The governor says 117 are needed to meet mandates under the federal health care overhaul law, 85 are needed to improve Medicaid "integrity and efficiency" and 78 are needed to expand community-based mental health services.

There would be 218 new workers at the Department of Transportation. Of that, 180 would be new engineering and engineering support positions who are expected to reduce government's costs for hiring outside consultants by $5.6 million annually.

He's also proposing adding 67 new auditors and investigators at the Revenue Department.


Walker's budget increases spending

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Governor Scott Walker's state budget increases spending 3 percent in the first year and 2.1 percent in the second year.

Walker introduced the $68 billion two-year spending plan to the Legislature on Wednesday.

His proposal will be debated by the Legislature's budget committee over the next four months, then be voted on by both the Senate and Assembly sometime before it takes effect in July.

His budget would end with a $43 million balance but leave the state with about $188 million in ongoing bills that aren't funded. Eliminating the so-called structural deficit has been a goal for many lawmakers for years.

The plan includes an expansion of private school vouchers, continuation of spending limits for public schools, a tightening of Medicaid eligibility and an income tax cut.


Wis. GOP leaders hedge on gov's job plans

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican leaders are hedging on Governor Scott Walker's plans to hire hundreds of new government workers.

The executive budget Walker released Wednesday calls for hiring 710 new workers.

Senator Alberta Darling, a River Hills Republican who co-chairs the Legislature's budget committee, says the number of new hires is a problem. She says they'll create long-term health care and pension obligations for the state and the GOP doesn't want to grow government.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Juneau Republican, says he hasn't seen any details on the new hires. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Burlington Republican, says he's skeptical on the hires but if Walker can make the case for them he could be persuaded.


Democrats say Walker budget hurts schools

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrats say Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal hurts the middle class and public schools and leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Walker's two-year spending plan released Wednesday night includes a $343 million income tax cut, a freeze on public school spending and an expansion of private vouchers.

Democratic Representative Cory Mason of Racine says the budget fails to address the needs of the middle class.

Walker's income tax cut targets individuals who earn up to $161,180 in taxable income. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson says people who make that much aren't the taxpayers who need the most help.

Democrats also say Walker's budget making it harder to qualify for Medicaid will decrease the availability of affordable health care.


Democrats say budget will decimate education

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrats say Republican Governor Scott Walker's budget that freezes spending for public education will severely harm those schools that are still reeling from deep cuts over the past two years.

Walker's budget released Wednesday doesn't allow spending increases for schools while raising aid by about 1 percent, but that money will go toward lowering property taxes and not on education spending.

State superintendent Tony Evers says schools are struggling to make ends meet and the Legislature should allow spending to increase at least $225 per student.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca says Democrats are hoping to improve the budget's education proposals to help schools that he says are "struggling mightily."

Walker's budget also calls for expanding private school vouchers to districts with failing schools.


Gov. Walker's budget to create 200 engineering positions

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Governor Scott Walker wants to create nearly 200 new transportation engineering positions.

The budget Walker released Wednesday calls for adding 180 engineering and engineering support positions within the state Department of Transportation. The governor says the move would reduce costs for outside consultants by $5.6 million annually.

Walker's total transportation budget would be $6.4 billion, a $500 million increase over the last state budget.

The spending plan calls for using a mixture of gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, the state's general fund, the petroleum inspection fund and bonding toward rebuilding Milwaukee's Zoo Interchange and Hoan Bridge, improving harbors, preserving railroad tracks and training new State Patrol recruits.


Budget committee to take up Wis. mining bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Republicans are poised to vote next week on a divisive bill that would overhaul the state's iron mining regulations.

The Joint Finance Committee has scheduled a vote on the Republican-authored measure on Monday.

Approval would send the bill on to the state Assembly and Senate. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Juneau Republican, says he expects that body will vote on Wednesday.

Passage is all but certain. The GOP controls the finance committee as well as both legislative houses.

The bill is designed to ease the regulatory path for Gogebic Taconite's plans for a giant open-pit iron mine just south of Lake Superior. Environmentalists and Democrats insist the bill would allow the company to pollute the pristine area.


Wis. man dies after wounding Adams Co. deputy

(Information in the following story is from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

TOWN OF BIG FLATS, Wis. (AP) -- Authorities say a 55-year-old man who shot and wounded an Adams County sheriff's deputy has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Adams County sheriff's office says Thomas Costigan of West Allis was pronounced dead Wednesday evening.

The sheriff's office says Costigan shot Deputy Todd Johnson Tuesday after Johnson and another deputy went to a house in the Town of Big Flats looking for Costigan's wife.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports West Allis police had notified Adams County authorities that the woman, who had a no-contact order against Costigan, was reported missing and that she might be with him.

Sheriff Sam Wollin says the suspect fired several shots at the deputies, wounding Johnson before shooting himself. He says the deputies did not return fire.

Johnson's condition was not released.


Ex-Sheboygan mayor fined $200 in groping case

(Information in the following story is from: The Sheboygan Press,

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) -- Former Sheboygan mayor Robert Ryan has been fined $200 as part of a plea deal in a 2011 groping case.

Ryan was fined $100 per count for two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct Wednesday. He earlier pleaded no contest to the reduced charges.

In a brief statement in court, Ryan told the judge that he accepted the plea because he acknowledges he was boisterous that July 2011 weekend in Elkhart Lake when he was accused of grabbing a woman's breasts.

Ryan said he's an alcoholic who was "drinking to excess" and was acting "in a disorderly fashion."

The Sheboygan Press reports including fees, the total amount Ryan owes is $770.

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