Clamoring begins over $342 million expected budget surplus; Polk County groups look for homes for 22 healthy abandoned cats; more briefsWisconsin News
State Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said the governor will have the ability to cut taxes in the next state budget – for now, at least. In a report Tuesday to Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers, Huebsch said the state would end the current budget next June with a $342 million net surplus.
State Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said the governor will have the ability to cut taxes in the next state budget – for now, at least.
In a report Tuesday to Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers, Huebsch said the state would end the current budget next June with a $342 million net surplus.
Huebsch said the governor has the money to achieve his stated desire to cut income taxes. And there are several ways he can deal with the requests by state agencies for $171 million more than the available revenues in the next budget.
But Huebsch admits his projections could go south if Congress does not avoid the automatic federal tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect in January. Early estimates say Wisconsin could lose at least $94 million federal dollars if the so-called “fiscal cliff” is not averted in Washington.
Huebsch also said his budget numbers do not include what the state might have to pay to run the Obama health reform law, and there’s a chance that prison costs might cut into the state’s reserves.
Meanwhile, Walker’s people are facing outside pressures to use whatever available money the state does have. Business groups want tens of millions of new dollars for vocational training and start-up companies.
Minority Democrats say the GOP should scrap any plans for a tax cut and restore at least part of the public school and university funding that was slashed in the last two years to help remove a huge state deficit.
Polk Co. groups look for homes for 22 healthy abandoned cats
Two groups in northwest Wisconsin are looking for families to adopt 22 cats that somebody dropped off at a veterinary hospital.
Officials are not sure who left the cats, which were inside four plastic bins at the front door of the Interstate Veterinary Hospital at Centuria in Polk County. The cats were dropped off Oct. 29, and the bins had holes so the pets could breathe.
Seventeen cats are up for adoption at the Arnell Memorial Humane Society in Amery. The rest are still at the hospital, and they’re all waiting for new homes.
Mary Bruckner of the humane shelter says the cats are all healthy and friendly. All appear to be one-year-old or younger.
The veterinary hospital’s owner, Mark Nelson, said whoever left the cats probably meant well, but they didn’t think about the need to spay and neuter their pets.
Those adopting from the hospital only need to pay a spaying or neutering fee. The humane shelter has reduced its adoption fee. The males have been neutered, and the females will be spayed when they’re adopted.
Officials are worried that the economy will discourage folks from adopting the cats. But Nelson said nobody wants to see them euthanized.
Election official: Cutting same-day registration will harm students, renters
The head of Milwaukee’s Election Commission says he’s got proof that college students and renters would be hurt the most if the state gets rid of same-day voter registration.
Gov. Scott Walker told a California audience last Friday night that he prefers trashing Wisconsin’s 36-year-old policy of letting voters register at the polls.
Neil Albrecht of Milwaukee’s election agency said it would hurt those who move most often – namely college youngsters, renters and the poor.
The Journal Sentinel asked Albrecht to prove his claim by finding out where the most Election Day registrations were for Walker’s recall election on June 5.
The paper said there were just over 43,000 same-day registrants, and most of the sign-ups were in the wards at or near UW-Milwaukee, Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
Albrecht said those schools were not in session that day. He predicts a much higher level of activity from the campus areas when he reviews the same-day registrations from the Nov. 6 presidential contest, which was carried by Democrat Barack Obama in Milwaukee and the state as a whole.
Archdiocese hopes to shield local churches from paying creditors
Milwaukee’s Catholic Archdiocese says it will fight in court to prevent its local churches from having to pay anything toward the Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the archdiocese.
Judge Susan Kelley will hold a hearing Dec. 6 on a request by creditors, including those sexually abused by priests, to be compensated with assets from the more than 200 parishes in the 10-county archdiocese.
About 575 sex abuse victims are seeking compensation from the archdiocese as part of the nearly two-year-old bankruptcy case. The church says it wants the judge to throw out 62 more claims because those victims had previously signed settlement agreements in their cases.
It will also ask Judge Kelley to let the church’s insurance carrier pay about 270 of the sex abuse claims. Civil courts previously refused to let the Milwaukee Archdiocese use insurance to pay sex abuse victims, but the church said a different policy applied in that case.
In a letter to Catholics last week, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said he’s running out of options, but he promised to examine every legal avenue for resolving its bankruptcy.
Besides abuse victims, the creditors include the medical insurers of retired priests as well as the pension funds of the Archdiocese.
Creditors’ attorney say the church’s legal reasoning is flawed, especially with its desire to prevent local churches from being tapped.
Former insurance company head pleads guilty to $7.5 million fraud
A former president of Manson Insurance in Wausau has agreed to plead guilty to two federal charges involving fraud schemes that totaled $7.5 million.
Timothy Mathwich was scheduled to go on trial next month on 24 fraud charges. Instead he’ll plead guilty next Tuesday to two conspiracy counts involving bank fraud and misappropriating insurance credits.
A grand jury in Madison indicted Mathwich Sept. 12. Among other things, prosecutors said he was involved in a scheme that caused Wausau’s River Valley Bank to lose almost $2 million in 2008.
The indictment said Mathwich forged insurance premium financing notes for customers who never asked for them, and the notes were then sold to the bank.
Former Manson CEO David Scholfield and former company treasurer Susan Brockman were sent to prison for their roles. Both were ordered to pay more than $5 million in restitution to victimized customers. The Mathwich plea deal also includes restitution.
Bomb threat closes Stratford schools
Police in the central Wisconsin village of Stratford are looking for the person who left a bomb threat in a bathroom at the middle and high school complex.
The building was evacuated around 1:40 p.m. Tuesday. Fire chief Bill Griesbach said it was about 20 minutes before the note said the school would blow up. A nearby elementary school was also evacuated.
Police said X-rays in the area of the bomb threat turned up nothing. Teachers joined a regional bomb squad as they scoured through the classrooms and locker rooms. They found nothing. An all-clear was given around 3:45.
Stratford Police Chief Korey Schillinger said the school district did the appropriate thing by letting the youngsters leave. They were sent to a pair of church parking lots where buses eventually took many students home. But those who drove to the high school had to wait until the all-clear was given.
FBI says shooter in Sikh temple attack acted alone
The Wisconsin Sikh community says it’s generally satisfied with the FBI’s investigation into the Aug. 5 shooting massacre at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek.
The temple’s president was among six people killed. His son, Amardeep Kaleka, said his group’s focus is to do what it can to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.
The FBI said yesterday that it wrapped up its investigation into the shootings, and it found that gunman Wade Michael Page acted alone.
Milwaukee special agent Teresa Carlson said her agency checked out 200 leads, interviewed 300 people and gathered 200 pieces of evidence.
Despite Page’s connection to white supremacy, the FBI said it found no evidence that any supremacist group had planned or directed the attacks. And there were no indications of an ongoing threat to the Sikh community.
Since the massacre, Sikh members have asked Congress to force the FBI to start tracking hate crimes against their community.
Value of farmland skyrocketing
The value of farmland keeps growing by leaps and bounds in the Midwest.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said agricultural land values jumped by 13% in the third quarter of this year, but it’s the smallest year-to-year increase since 2010.
Previous surveys showed that Wisconsin land values lagged behind the regional growth rates, and the same is true in the new report. The Federal Reserve Bank reported an 8% jump in the state’s ag land values – 5% below the bank’s five-state totals.
But Wisconsin’s dairy farmers are among the most successful in getting loans. The Badger State was the only one where non-real estate loans did not drop in the July through September period, and bankers expect the trend to continue for at least the rest of the year.
The Chicago Reserve Bank said Iowa had the largest increase in farmland values in its territory – 18%for the third quarter. Illinois was up 15%, Indiana 11%, Wisconsin 8% and Michigan 7%.
Midwest farmland values from by 5% from the second quarter of this year, and 36% of bankers surveyed believe the increases will continue in the final quarter.
Trial ordered for Minnesota man in girlfriend’s death
A Minnesota man has been ordered to stand trial on charges that he killed his girlfriend near Wausau, stole two guns and a pick-up truck and eluded officers who tried to arrest him.
A Marathon County judge ruled Tuesday that there’s enough evidence to order further proceedings against Richi Vue, 21, of Saint Paul. He’s scheduled to enter pleas Jan. 3 to five felony counts of homicide, theft, vehicle theft, fleeing officers and possessing guns as a convicted felon.
Prosecutors said Vue shot Lee Xiong, 20, to death Oct. 13 at her family’s apartment in Weston after he and she argued about a drug deal earlier in the day. Vue now claims he fired the weapon by accident.
Officers from Marathon and Clark counties tracked down the suspect after he allegedly tried to elude them in a wooded area near Abbotsford. He was arrested after a short chase. Authorities said he was driving a struck stolen from a Wausau area dealership about a month before the murder, and officers recovered two weapons stolen from a gun shop in Lincoln County.
Vue remains in jail under a $1 million bond.
Commission orders investigation into alleged pre-fight tasering
Kenosha’s Fire and Police Commission has ordered an investigation into an incident in which an officer fired a taser stun gun at a man who was apparently about to get into a fist fight.
Chief John Morrissey will decide how to conduct the investigation, and whether he’ll bring in officials from the outside to review the matter. But the commission wants the probe finished in 90 days.
The case involves an apparent discrepancy between an officer’s written report and a squad car video on the taser shooting, which happened in July.
A Kenosha police officer wrote that he saw two men actively fighting in a street when the squad car approached. But video from the vehicle showed that both men were standing, and neither had his fists raised.
The officer reportedly shot the taser at one of the men within 15 seconds after getting out of the squad car.
A defense lawyer said her client could have hit his head on the pavement after being tasered so quickly. Yesterday, the attorney, Denise Hertz-McGrath, asked the commission to find out the truth about what happened.
Warm weather poses threat to fresh venison
Wisconsin’s successful deer hunters have a special challenge this year – keeping their venison from spoiling.
When the temperatures are below freezing, it’s no problem. But with daytime highs in the 50’s and 60’s, hunters do not have the luxury of hanging their animals for a few days before taking them to a processor.
Maplewood Meats near Green Bay is among the processors doing more inspections to make sure the deer meat does not carry high levels of bacteria as a result of the warmer temperatures.
Co-owner Brad Van Hemelryk said venison can rot easily unless hunters bring in their meat right away.
Officials say lots of hunters have taken the advice, and that’s one reason the preliminary harvest figures for the opening weekend were up 19% from a year ago.
The mild temperatures are expected to continue through Thanksgiving, but a cold front is due in on Black Friday with scattered snow showers possible for shoppers. Forecasters say it probably won’t get out of the 30’s anywhere in Wisconsin from Friday through at least Sunday.