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Wisconsin joins Minnesota in mourning Prince; bad math allowed business tax breaks; wildfire risks prompt emergency declaration; seven more state news stories

Prince performs in a surprise appearance on the "American Idol" television show finale at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, in this May 24, 2006 file photo. (Reuters photo)

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsinites have joined their neighbors to the west in mourning the death of Minnesota music icon Prince.

The 57-year-old pop star died Thursday at his recording studio complex in suburban Minneapolis. At least two non-commercial radio stations in Milwaukee dropped their formats and played all-Prince music for hours -- and a Milwaukee movie theater says it will show Prince's 1984 film "Purple Rain" for three nights next week.

Station manager Tom Crawford of Milwaukee's WMSE-FM says Prince's uplifting music saved him from trouble in his 20s -- and while many of his lyrics were on the naughty side, Crawford says Prince's music taught peace, acceptance, and love.

At Thursday's Milwaukee Brewers baseball game, "Let's Go Crazy" and "Purple Rain" were played for fans at Miller Park -- and Minnesota Twins players said they dedicated their 8-1 victory over the Brewers to their home state music legend.

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WEDC: business tax breaks based on faulty math

MILWAUKEE -- The state's job creation agency is taking a close look at the amount of tax breaks it gives businesses for adding workers.

At a board meeting Thursday in Milwaukee, CEO Mark Hogan said the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awarded tax credits since 2007 that were based on faulty calculations. The Wisconsin State Journal says the board discussed the matter further in a closed session, and Hogan did not elaborate afterward.

Officials say the problem involves how the WEDC counts the numbers of jobs created by companies that qualify for tax breaks -- and they're still trying to determine the exact impact. The agency reportedly found the discrepancy on its own, and it's not known whether the firms that received the tax credits would have give back excess awards.

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Walker declares state of emergency due to high wildfire risks

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday declared a state of emergency because of the extremely high risks for wildfires throughout Wisconsin.

Walker issued an executive order that tells all state agencies to help with responses to fires as much as possible. It also alerts the National Guard to have its units ready to assist.

The DNR says 240 wildfires have burned almost 275 acres of grass and brush lands since the beginning of the year. New rainfall the past couple of days has at least temporarily reduced the fire dangers throughout the state.

Parts of southwest and north central Wisconsin have moderate fire risks, the northeast has a high fire danger, and the rest of the state now has low risks.

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More state government workers leave for private sector

MADISON -- At least 2,300 state government employees in Wisconsin left their jobs last year without retiring – the most in at least 10 years.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained numerous figures about the growing departures of state employees. The report says 3,600 workers in all agencies but the UW-System left state positions in 2015, which is 23 percent more than the previous year.

The state's largest news outlet says it's not known why state employee resignations have grown, although signs point to an improved economy -- and perhaps a dissatisfaction with stagnant public wages and a nearly total loss of union bargaining under the Republicans' Act-Ten law from 2011. The Walker administration says Act-Ten lets the state compete better with the private sector.

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Kind wants state to investigate claims of voter suppression

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. House Democrat Ron Kind wants the state's attorney general to investigate recent claims that Wisconsin's voter ID law was designed to prevent certain groups from voting.

In a statement Thursday, Kind -- a former La Crosse County prosecutor -- cited recent comments from Republicans. They include House Republican Glenn Grothman of Campbellsport, who says the state's photo ID voter law could help Wisconsin endorse the GOP presidential nominee for the first time since 1984.

Kind also refers to a recent Madison newspaper report in which former Senate GOP aide Todd Allbaugh notes that several Republican senators felt the law had the potential to suppress minority voting.

Kind says the comments expose a "serious issue" that needs investigating, but the state Justice Department is not commenting.

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State dairy wants help on import concern

GREENWOOD -- One of Wisconsin's best known dairies is seeking federal help to have Canada continue importing ultra-filtered milk from the U.S.

Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood says Canada is making plans to halt the imports -- and it might reduce Wisconsin's dairy exports by about $100 million per year. The ultra flavored milk is a liquid protein concentrate that helps produce cheese, and Canadian dairy farmers have objected to the product's duty-free status as it enters America's northern neighbor.

Grassland executives have expressed concerns in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. They say the milk that's used to make the concentrate helps keep 700 Wisconsin dairy farms in business -- in addition to the Grassland plant which is best known worldwide for its butter products.

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Associated Bank reports double-digit profit drop

GREEN BAY -- The largest bank based in Wisconsin reports an 11 percent drop in its quarterly profits.

The parent firm of Green Bay's Associated Bank says it added $20 million dollars to its reserves to cover losses from possible bad loans to firms in the oil and gas industry, which has been affected by cuts in market prices.

The extra reserve money cut into Associated's earnings, and the firm reports a net income of $40 million from January through March -- down from $45 million in the same quarter of last year with a drop in earnings from 30 cents per share to 27 cents.

CEO Philip Flynn says the bank would have had a strong quarter if it was not for the oil and gas loan concerns. Associated's total loans rose by $1 billion during the quarter, to a total of around $19 billion.

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UW-Madison: policies for classroom arrests under review

MADISON -- UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says the campus police is reviewing its procedures for making arrests in classrooms after several hundred students protested Thursday.

The students made demands to address an incident from last Thursday, in which a police officer took a black student from a classroom for questioning about a recent spraying of racial graffiti. Officials say the incident was peaceful and there were no arrests.

The 21-year-old student has not been charged, and the protesters demanded that any criminal action be dropped -- that the normal student conduct review be dropped so the student can graduate next month -- and that the involved UW officials resign. Police Chief Sue Riseling has apologized for the intrusion.

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Milwaukee police use force less in arrests

MILWAUKEE -- More arrests were made peacefully in Wisconsin's largest city last year.

Milwaukee Police say they used some kind of force in making 682 arrests in 2015 -- which is 2.6 percent less than the previous year and 24 percent less than in 2013.

Police define force as having to use their guns, batons, pepper spray, or Taser stun guns. Physical moves are also included in the numbers -- as well as dog bites and blood drawn by force.

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Possible norovirus outbreak in central Wisconsin

MARSHFIELD -- An investigation is underway in central Wisconsin into a possible norovirus outbreak.

At least 16 people have fallen ill after attending a banquet over the weekend at Hotel Marshfield. The Wood County Health Department is working to interview all 276 people who were there.

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