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Renewal of Minn/Wis tax reciprocity unlikely this year; 70 mph being considered again; more state briefs

Marty Cobenais, pipeline organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network; Winona LaDuke, American Indian activist and executive director of Honor the Earth; and Lorna Hanes ride horses Sunday afternoon on the Enbridge pipeline right-of-way south of Oliver, Wis. They hope to draw attention to the expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline that would bring additional tar sands from Alberta through the Northland region’s lines. Photo by Bob King, Duluth News-Tribune.

ST. PAUL -- Tax credits appear to be the sticking point, as Wisconsin and Minnesota reach a deadline of Tuesday to bring back their long-time income tax reciprocity.

Negotiators said last week they probably wouldn't make the deadline. That means people who live in Wisconsin and work in Minnesota -- and vice-versa -- will have to file tax returns in both states for another year.

Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans says the sticking point is tax credits for his residents.

Frans says Wisconsin has a higher effective tax rate for many middle-income people. That means Minnesotans end up paying more for working in Wisconsin.

Jack Jablonski, the deputy revenue secretary for Wisconsin, said Minnesota set a limit on tax credits. That was after former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty scrapped the tax reciprocity in 2009 because his state was losing money.

-- Minnesota News Network

Tuesday hearing will air opinions on 70 mph speed limit

MADISON -- Wisconsin drivers will get their say Tuesday on a bill to raise the speed limit to 70 miles an hour on most four-lane freeways and expressways.

The Assembly Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the measure at 11 a.m., Tuesday at the State Capitol. Republican Speaker Robin Vos is among the most vocal supporters of raising Wisconsin's long-time 65-limit.

Twenty-two Assembly members, mostly Republicans, have co-sponsored the Assembly bill.

Senate Republicans Glenn Grothman and Mary Lazich also favor it, but their party's leadership has no plans to consider it any time soon in the upper house.

Gov. Scott Walker has not taken a position on it. After Tuesday's hearing, the Assembly transportation panel will make recommendations on several other bills -- including De Pere Republican Andre Jacque's bill to create a specialized license plate to promote the pro-life movement.

High court will hear challenge to domestic partner registry

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments Oct. 23rd in a legal challenge to the state's four-year-old registry for same-sex domestic partners.

The Wisconsin Family Action group has tried three times to get the justices to consider throwing out the registry. The Supreme Court finally decided in June to hear the case.

The registry gives domestic couples about one-fifth of the legal benefits of married couples -- including hospital visits and end-of-life decisions.

Same-sex couples register at county clerk's offices, similar to the way married couples get their licenses. Family Action says the registry is too much like traditional marriage, and therefore it violates the state's 2006 constitutional amendment against gay marriage and civil unions.

Fair Wisconsin, which is now defending the registry, says it gives same-sex couples only a fraction of what married couples get.

A Dane County judge and a state appeals court have both ruled the domestic partner registry as constitutional.

Former Gov. Jim Doyle and his fellow Democrats created the domestic partner registry in 2009.

When Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans took control of the State Capitol, they stopped defending the registry -- leaving Fair Wisconsin to take over that challenge.

Effects of possible federal shut-down minimal here

A congressional game of chicken will be played between now and midnight Monday, to determine if the federal government will have a limited shutdown at this time Tuesday.

The Republican-controlled House forced the Democrats' hand by voting early Sunday to delay key parts of the Affordable Care Act, and repeal the Obama-care tax on medical devices.

All five Wisconsin House Republicans supported that. They also voted to keep the rest of the government funded when the new fiscal year begins at midnight, going on record against a shutdown.

The Democrat-controlled Senate was scheduled to meet Monday afternoon. Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to reject the House package, which was voted down by all three Wisconsin Democrats in that chamber.

Funding would continue for the health law -- and therefore, the law's purchasing exchanges would still take effect Tuesday as planned. Wisconsin officials say they're ready. Federal employees would not be paid if there's a shutdown.

Wisconsin would be affected the least by that, since the state ranks last in its numbers of federal workers with around 15,000.

Riders stage protest over a proposed Superior oil pipeline

SUPERIOR -- Horseback riders staged a protest Sunday against a proposed oil pipeline from Superior to Alberta Canada.

A group called Honor the Earth held the event on Enbridge Energy's right-of-way near Superior, where the company has a refinery. The group's director, Indian activist Winona LaDuke, cites possible environmental damage from the project -- which would increase the capacity of an existing pipeline by 120,000 barrels a day to around 570,000.

LaDuke says Enbridge should clean up old environmental messes "before it tries to make a new one."

She was referring to last year's spill in Adams County, where 50,000 gallons leaked -- and a spill of 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010.

Enbridge did not immediately comment on the protest.

The Alberta Clipper project has been on the books for a long time. In 2010, a federal judge in Minneapolis upheld permits for the pipeline.

Environmental groups accused the government at the time of not analyzing the effects of the project before granting its permits.

In Minnesota, the Public Utilities Commission is considering a petition from Enbridge for a "certificate of need" for the pipeline.

-- Forum News Service

Oshkosh workers vote up contract, supporting company

OSHKOSH -- Union workers at the Oshkosh Corp. have voted to extend their current contract for five more years, to help the firm win a large defense package.

Sunday's vote among the 2,500 members of the United Auto Workers was not disclosed.

Oshkosh is one of three defense firms competing for a contract to build up to 55,000 new military vehicles as a replacement for the standard Humvee.

Oshkosh asked United Auto Workers Local 578 to extend its contract by five years after it was due to expire in 2016. Had the union not done that, the firm said it might have moved production elsewhere to make it easier to win the Humvee contract.

Union president Joe Priesler said his bargaining committee would have done a disservice to the employees had it not taken the threat seriously. The workers will get a 1.5 percent pay raise in each of the first three years of the extension. Those raises increase to 2.5- and 3 percent in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Employees will also pay more for their health care.

Laid-off workers will get first preference for new jobs if their recall rights have been exhausted.

The Humvee contract would be a big boost for Oshkosh, which has laid off 1,200 employees this year as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down.

Police response less-than-stellar on bridge sag

GREEN BAY -- A truck driver was the first to notice that the high-rise Leo Frigo Interstate bridge in Green Bay had sagged by almost 2 feet. Press- Gazette Media reviewed 9-1-1 records and they learned that it took police about 75 minutes to realize that the I-43 bridge over the Fox River had to be shut down.

The trucker called 9-1-1 around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday after he felt something strange under his vehicle. He had to emphasize twice to a dispatcher that the bridge was sagging before an officer was sent out.

The officer saw nothing unusual.

Police Lieutenant Jeff Brester said the initial officer was either mistaken or the problem got worse later. He said other drivers surely would have noticed a problem and called 9-1-1.

They did, but not until an hour after the first trucker called. Police closed the bridge before they got a state highway engineer to arrive. Jason Lahm was skeptical when he was first told about it -- but once he got there, he couldn't believe what he saw. A concrete pier sank two-feet.

Once officials find out why, they'll fix the problem and re-open the bridge. A remedy could take several months, or up to a year.

Dry, mild weather foretold until Thursday

If garden clean-up for lawn-mowing needs to be done, the next two days would be a good time to do it.

Dry weather is predicted into Wednesday, and temperatures will stay above normal.

Most of the state received brief downpours on Saturday, with some areas getting a half-inch of rain or more. River Falls recorded. .29 of an inch. Stueben in Crawford County had just over three-fourths of an inch.

Normal highs for Wisconsin are in the 60's for late September. Highs in the 70's are predicted throughout the Badger State Monday, and many areas could reach the 80's by Wednesday.

After that, a low-pressure system is expected to move in, bringing rain and somewhat cooler temperatures for the rest of the week.

Fisherman's body recovered from Hayward-area lake

HAYWARD -- The body of a southern Wisconsin man was found Sunday, two days after he fell into a Bayfield County lake. Searchers found Gerald Buss of Cottage Grove in about 10 eet water on Lake Namakagon.

Authorities said Buss and a friend were fishing when he fell into the water on Friday afternoon. A seat cushion was thrown to him -- but Buss couldn't hang on, and he lost his grip and went under.

The friend signaled other fishermen on the water, and they called 9-1-1 immediately. A search continued until the body was discovered around 12:15 Sunday afternoon.

The coroner's office ruled the death as an accidental cold-water drowning.

Pilot uninjured in Wausau-area crash

WAUSAU -- A gust of wind apparently caused a small plane to crash east of Wausau. The pilot escaped injury, even though the plane caught fire.

Marathon County sheriff's deputies said the plane was attempting to a land at a private airstrip in Hatley around 2 p.m., Sunday.

Officials said the sudden wind caused the plane to crash and it the craft was the only thing damaged. The incident remains under investigation.

One dead in hit-and-run crash

MILWAUKEE -- A 39-year-old man was killed and a second person was critically injured in a weekend hit-and-run crash on Milwaukee's south side.

Police said the two were crossing a street late Saturday night when a conversion van struck them, and kept going.

Police were continuing to search for the van at last word. The victims' names have not yet been released.


Marty Cobenais, pipeline organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network; Winona LaDuke, American Indian activist and executive director of Honor the Earth; and Lorna Hanes ride horses Sunday afternoon on the Enbridge pipeline right-of-way south of Oliver, Wis. They hope to draw attention to the expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline that would bring additional tar sands from Alberta through the Northland region’s lines. The foreground post marks the location of an underground oil pipeline. (Bob King /

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.