Weather Forecast


Newest reciprocity pact sent over the border; child resettlements raise GOP ire; 10 more state stories

MADISON -- Wisconsin has made a new offer to restore income tax reciprocity with Minnesota, so 80,000 people who work across the border can again file taxes with their home state instead of both.

The latest offer does not include the State of Minnesota's request for an extra payment of up to $6 million. Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler calls that unprecedented.

Still, Chandler and state lawmakers near the Minnesota border remain hopeful that the two states can reach an agreement by Sept. 30, so the reciprocity can return in 2015.

Because more Wisconsinites work in Minnesota than vice versa, the Badger State used to make annual payments to make the arrangement financially equal for both states. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty cut off the 40-year arrangement in 2009 because Wisconsin was getting behind on its payments.

Minnesota says it's been fair in the effort to bring it back, saying it cut $1 million a year from its previous request.

Under Wisconsin's latest offer, Chandler says the Badger State would still increase its payments to Minnesota from the $58 million dollars in 2009 to $87 million for the 2015 tax year.

Wisconsin lawmakers of both parties urged the Gopher State to accept the offer, so affected residents can save time and money.

Democrats dubious of Ryan's proposed anti-poverty reforms

WASHINGTON D.C. -- House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville says he wants to reform federal programs for the poor without a net reduction in spending, but at least one Wisconsin Democrat doesn't buy it.

Milwaukee Representative Gwen Moore said the block grants Ryan's talking about are a "proxy for the chopping block." Moore said it would lead to cuts in programs that benefit the poor.

Ryan said that at first, states would choose to test his idea of merging up to eleven anti-poverty programs with a single block grant. He said the states would also get more flexibility to better tailor the federal aid to their own needs. Moore said she liked other parts of the Ryan package, which would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for the poor, and reduce prison populations by reforming sentences for non-violent offenders.

The ranking Democrat on the House budget panel, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, said some of Ryan's stated ideas conflict with the spending cuts that he and other House Republicans have voted for.

In Van Hollen's words, "Watch what they do, not what they say."

Republicans object to immigrant children resettlements here

MADISON -- As some Republican state lawmakers raise concerns about the housing of unaccompanied immigrant children, about 50 already have been placed in Wisconsin and they're living with approved sponsors.

The U.S. Office of Refugee Settlement has a Web site with a state-by-state breakdown of placements from Jan. 1 first through early July. It also explains its placement policies, once immigrant children are referred by Homeland Security officials.

The resettlement agency says it requires medical clearance for the youngsters plus criminal background checks of the adults who sponsor them.

On Thursday, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he wants Wisconsin off the list of places where the federal government is sending unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the U.S. border.

Vos and three other Assembly Republicans wrote to the head of Homeland Security, saying it's better for the minors to be located near the nation's southern border so families can be promptly re-united.

Vos, GOP finance chair John Nygren of Marinette, and fellow Assembly Republicans Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc and Dave Craig of Big Bend signed the letter.

They said Wisconsin is a generous state that's willing to help in times of emergency but in their words, "The federal government should not prioritize the needs of others over our own residents."

Vos and the other Republicans said they were "beyond frustrated" that the Obama administration has not given adequate information to state officials including the potential for health risks that the immigrants might bring in.

Lawmakers also want to know if the children would be classified as refugees, which means they could get state public assistance benefits.

The Refugee Resettlement Office says most children in the program are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where there's been heavy gang violence.

The surge of unaccompanied immigrant children began in 2012 but has grown significantly. The re-settlement agency expects 60,000 referrals in the current fiscal year, up from 23,000 the previous year.

Visit the Refugee Settlement site here:

-- Minnesota News Network

State bogs post cranberry harvest

Wisconsin had another record cranberry crop last year. Recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that the Badger State produced just over 6 million barrels, a 25 percent increase from 2012. About 21,000 acres of cranberries were harvested statewide a year ago, 400 more than the previous year.

The state provided 67 percent of the nation's total production. Massachusetts was a distant second with 1.8 million barrels.

Gov. Scott Walker hailed Wisconsin's record output and he praised growers for their hard work and determination, especially those facing extreme weather conditions the past few years.

Wisconsin's increase was more than twice the 11 percent jump in the national harvest. Also, Walker noted that Wisconsin's cherry and apple growers rebounded from bad weather in 2012 with large increases in their production.

The USDA said apple growers harvested almost 42 million pounds in 2012, while the cherry crop totaled 12.3 million pounds.

Average price for fresh and processed berries was $32.30 per barrel compared to $47.90 in 2012. Washington producers got $43 per barrel, Wisconsin $32, New Jersey $37.50, Massachusetts $31.60 and Oregon $30.60, Brownfield reported.

-- Bob Meyer, Brownfield Ag News Service

Appeals court says teen can sue after eating lead paint chips

CHICAGO -- A federal appeals court has ruled against Wisconsin's governor and Legislature, by letting a Milwaukee teen sue up to six paint-makers after he got sick eating lead-based paint chips.

The family of Ernest Gibson, now 17, did not know which company made the paint that sickened the teen. The State Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that victims could sue all companies that made lead-based paint before it was banned in the 1970's.

Conservatives called the ruling a slap to Wisconsin's efforts to attract business and in 2011, majority Republicans required paint victims to identify the companies which made the product which made them sick. Two years later, the GOP imposed the same requirement on 170 other lead poisoning victims who filed suit before the burden-of-proof was raised. Gibson was one of those people. On Thursday, the Seventh Circuit Appellate court found that he had a "vested right" to pursue his negligence claims.

This case also had a profound impact on former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, who wrote the 2005 decision. Butler later lost an election bid, as opponents kept harping on his lead-based paint ruling. Later, Republicans in Congress struck down four attempts by President Obama to name Butler to a lifetime federal judgeship.

Would-be rescuer who died hailed as a hero

A suburban Chicago woman who died while saving an eight-year-old swimmer in northern Wisconsin is being a called a "hero" by her sister.

Karen Wessel, 47, lived in Arlington Heights, Ill. She and her sister, Janice Potocki, swam onto Star Lake near Sayner in Vilas County on Tuesday to save three boys who struggled while trying to swim to an island and were going back to shore.

Sheriff's officials said Wessel went under while holding the eight-year-old as high as she could, so he wouldn't go under as well. Wessel was rescued, and was flown to a hospital in Wausau where she died on Tuesday night, July 22.

Potocki told the Arlington Heights Daily Herald that her sister definitely saved the boy's life. Potocki and the other two swimmers escaped unharmed.

State's mink provide pelts for 1 of every 3 coats

Luxurious mink coats still have Wisconsin written all over them. Federal officials said the Badger State made one of every three mink pelts produced in the U.S. last year, with just over 1.1 million. That's eight percent more than in 2011, the last year in which production figures were available.

Utah was second in mink production with 855,000 pelts, more than 250,000 fewer than Wisconsin.

Nationally, mink production rose 15 percent over the previous two years.

Two-thirds of the Wisconsin pelts were black. Ten-percent were blue iris, nine-percent mahogany, and eight percent white.

The USDA said the average pelt was valued at just over $56.

Former Minnesota attorney, now Spooner resident, disbarred

A former Minnesota attorney who now lives in Wisconsin has been disbarred by the Supreme Court of the Gopher State.

Linda Brost, 62, who now lives in Spooner, pleaded guilty last year to charges that she stole $43,000 from the estate of a client who was deceased.

She was convicted of identity theft, and theft-by-swindle. Officials said Brost also failed to cooperate in an investigation by the Minnesota agency which handles lawyer discipline. That office filed a petition against her last December, after she was suspended from practicing law in 2009.

'Strad' thief gets 3.5 years for rare violin heist

A Milwaukee man will spend three-and-a-half years in a state prison for helping rob a musician of a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin.

Universal Allah, 37, will also spend three-and-a-half years under extended supervision once he's no longer behind bars. Allah provided the stun gun allegedly used by Salah Salahaydn, 42, when they confronted concert-master Frank Almond and stole the $5 million violin after he performed with it at Wisconsin Lutheran College in January.

Salahaydn was expected to have a plea deal approved Thursday -- but the proceeding was delayed after his public defender asked to withdraw from the case.

Almond told Circuit Judge Dennis Moroney a severe penalty for Allah was "critical," and he was shocked to learn how the closely the defendants stalked him and his family for years.

He said they knew where he lived, and many details of his day-to-day life.

The judge told Allah to pay $3,500 to Almond for lost wages from the incident -- along with $400 in repairs to the violin.

One dead, 13 injured in car-tour bus crash

ARBOR VITAE -- A woman was killed and at least 13 others were injured when two cars collided in far northern Wisconsin and a tour bus then hit one of the autos. It happened late Thursday morning on Highway 51 near Arbor Vitae.

State Patrol Sergeant Travis Wanless said one northbound car rear-ended another and one of the cars veered into the southbound lane, where the oncoming bus struck that vehicle.

The driver of that car, a 64-year-old Minocqua woman, was killed. The other car was driven by a 47-year-old Woodruff woman.

The tour bus was carrying a group from Beloit, ages 40- to 85. All were taken to a Woodruff hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The bus driver declined a hospital transport.

No names were immediately released. The crash remains under investigation.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU-Wausau and Mike Michalak, WHDG-Rhinelander

Crash in construction zone claims one life; six injured

LA CROSSE -- One person died and at least two others were hurt when six vehicles collided at an Interstate construction zone near La Crosse.

The accident happend Thursday morning on I-90, east of the Wisconsin-Minnesota border near French Island.

According to the State Patrol's preliminary investigation, traffic was merging into the construction zone when a dump truck could not slow down in time, and it rear-ended another vehicle.

A van and four cars also got snarled up in the crash. TV reports said the dump truck landed on top of one of the cars, and both rolled into a median where they started on fire.

The drivers' names were not immediately released. An investigation continues.

Man kills self after firing at passing motorist, sheriff's deputy

Authorities in northeast Wisconsin said a Green Bay man apparently killed himself, after shooting at a couple's SUV and a sheriff's car.

Marinette County officials said the incident began on Highway 141 near Wausaukee Thursday afternoon, and ended near Goodman about 35 miles away.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve tells WLUK TV of Green Bay that the 35-year-old man shot twice at a sport utility vehicle carrying a vacationing couple and it was done for no apparent reason. The couple was not injured.

Deputies later found the shooter's vehicle near Pembine and chased him down Hwy. 8. Sauve said the man fired shots at the officers before they lost sight of the suspect. He then turned down a dirt road. Deputies searched the area before finding the man face down next to his car. The sheriff said he had an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators are trying to figure out what led to the incident.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.