New Walker budget would borrow a billion; lawmaker wants food stamp recipients to shop more wisely; more state news
Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget would borrow over a billion dollars - almost all of it for transportation projects.
The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says about $400 million would improve major highways, $300 million would re-do Milwaukee's Zoo freeway interchange, $200-million would be borrowed to improve Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge at the south edge of the downtown and $60 million would be spent on rail projects.
The state transportation fund normally covers those projects but revenues in that fund have been sagging due to less federal aid, and more fuel-efficient vehicles are driving down gas tax revenues.
A task force recently called for a 5 cent per gallon gas tax hike and numerous transportation fee increases but Walker and his majority legislative Republicans refuse to even consider tax-or-fee hikes.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and both co-chairs of the Legislature's Finance Committee have said they're uncomfortable with the heavy borrowing but Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said their only other choices are to cut projects or find new revenues.
He said major projects like the Hoan Bridge have been delayed for too long and borrowing is favorable right now because interest rates are low.
Redistricting lawsuit plaintiffs get two more months to examine Republican computers
MADISON -- Two plaintiffs in Wisconsin's redistricting lawsuit will have two more months to examine Republican computers, and look for possible wrongdoing in the re-mapping process.
A federal court Thursday gave two groups of Democrats and Hispanics until May 10th to dig for evidence in GOP computers that were recently handed to them.
In a court filing this week, the groups said they discovered that one of the hard drives was dented and scratched - and others had evidence that documents were electronically "wiped" so they could be deleted for good.
In a trial last year, the plaintiffs lost their case when the court ruled that all but two of the Assembly and Senate districts drawn by the GOP in 2011 were constitutional.
Since the trial, the two groups said they've found 55 documents that the GOP was ordered to hand over to the plaintiffs by a court order, and never did. The plaintiffs say it will cost at least $100,000 for the new computer analysis. The court must decide who will pay the tab.
Report says jobs added, but state unemployment ticked upward
MADISON -- Wisconsin added 12,400 private sector jobs in January, but the state's unemployment rate still rose to 7 percent, up from 6.7 percent the month before.
The seasonally adjusted figures were released Thursday by the state's Workforce Development agency.
The report said government jobs fell by about 10,600, but officials said it was probably due to the timing of paychecks by the UW System.
Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson has challenged the accuracy of the monthly job reports for more than a year. He says they're only based on surveys from 3.4 percent of the state's employers and are subject to major revisions later on. Newson said last year's monthly reports under-counted the numbers of Wisconsin jobs by a total of 67,000 throughout the year.
The Walker administration has emphasized another federal report in which 96 percent of employers provide job data, but those numbers are up to seven months old when they're released.
Lawmaker wants Food-Share recipients to eat healthier, more modestly
MADISON -- A Republican state lawmaker wants those who get public Food-Share benefits to eat healthier, and stay away from the high-priced delicacies.
Neenah Representative Dean Kaufert says he and his colleagues get stories about shoppers standing in line to buy ground beef with cash while "the people in front of them are buying tenderloins with food stamps."
Kaufert tells the Wisconsin Radio Network he's also concerned about using food assistance to buy junk items like soda and chips.
He says he doesn't want to tell people what to buy - but it is tax money, and it needs to be used to "get the most bang for the buck."
Kaufert is proposing a bill to create a pilot program to help Food-Share recipients make healthier decisions - either by limiting what they can spend on junk food, or giving incentives to those who make smarter choices.
The change would need a federal waiver but Kaufert says it would let Wisconsin be a national model to encourage healthier eating. It would not change Food-Share's eligibility requirements, or the total amount of benefits that recipients get.
Sensenbrenner: 'Conservatives can learn from Wisconsin'
House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner says national conservatives should take a lesson from Wisconsin as they try to reclaim the White House in 2016.
Sensenbrenner, the 34-year veteran from Menomonee Falls, spoke Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington. He said Wisconsin proves that conservatives are electable, as evidenced by office-holders like Gov. Scott Walker and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.
Ryan was to address the conference Friday and Walker Saturday. Both are also in the convention's straw poll of 23 possible White House candidates for 2016.
Sensenbrenner also told conservatives to remember their history. He said they waged a strong grassroots campaign for Barry Goldwater's presidential bid in 1964. And even though they lost, their activity helped set the stage for Ronald Reagan's two terms in the 1980's. In Sensenbrenner's words, "We have to do that again."
Bill would expand search provisions for ex-con supervision
MADISON -- Convicts on probation and parole could be searched more often under a bill that had a public hearing at the State Capitol Thursday.
Right now, state corrections agents can search the property of those on probation and parole if they're suspected of violating the terms of their supervision.
The new bill from Senate Republican Joe Leibham of Sheboygan would extend those powers to all law enforcement agencies. He says the searches could be made if officers suspect that an offender either committed a crime - or is about to commit one.
Sheboygan Police Captain Bob Wallace told a Senate committee it would improve public safety, by letting officers more quickly investigate possible criminal behavior.
Anthony Cotton of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said the police powers could be easily abused. He said an anonymous tip would be the only thing needed to let police go to a person's home and search it.
Madison man gets 20 years for drug-related murder
MADISON -- A Madison man who mentored troubled teens in a community program will spend 20 years in prison for a drug-related murder.
Victor McKeavin, 32, escaped a possible life sentence by pleading guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree homicide. He admitted shooting 31-year-old Derwin Hawkins to death in May, 2011.
Prosecutors said the two men were both drug dealers, and they had a disagreement after they got together on Madison's west side.
McKeavin asked the victim's family to forgive him, and he wants to keep helping kids who get in trouble.
Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan said he hoped McKeavin would live up to his words someday, and not "rot in prison."
Prep school settles in wrongful dismissal claim
MILWAUKEE -- A private prep school in Milwaukee has agreed to pay $37,500 to settle claims that a staff member was fired because she was pregnant.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the University School of Milwaukee, after the K-12 facility let Mallory Barker go. She was a part-time arts and crafts director in an after-school program, and the EEOC said her pregnancy is what got her terminated.
Under the settlement, the University School must also train its managers and employees about pregnancy discrimination and prevent such actions in the future.
The school said it was not admitting liability, but it was in the school's best interest to settle the case.
Racine man banned from all libraries
A judge in Racine has ordered a man accused of lewd behavior to "stay out of all libraries on the face of the Earth."
Tyree Carter, 20, appeared before Circuit Judge Emily Mueller Thursday after he allegedly masturbated in the open last week at the Racine Public Library. A witness said he didn't try to hide it, and prosecutors said he apologized when police confronted him.
The order to stay out of all libraries is part of a signature bond on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and exposure. Carter pleaded not guilty to both counts, and he's due back in court April 11.
Fiber cut knocks out 8,000 internet customers
Approximately 8,000 Internet customers in north central Wisconsin are back online Friday, after a long service outage Thursday.
A utility crew from Wisconsin Public Service was digging along road north of Merrill when they struck a fiber-optic line owned by Frontier Communications.
The outage affected homes, businesses, and the Oneida County sheriff's department in Rhinelander, which had its data lines interrupted. Authorities in Lincoln County - where the break took place - said their dispatch center was not affected.
Frontier said two emergency crews repaired the fiber-optic line, and everybody could surf the Web again by 9 p.m.
-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau