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Analysts: 'Political theatre' won't shift state's job picture; UW GB chancellor to quit; 12 more state stories

MADISON -- Policy analysts say Wisconsin's slow job growth has been a thorn in the state's side for the entire 2000's -- and all the political spin and finger-pointing won't change that.

Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayers' Alliance says the increase in jobs under Republican Gov. Scott Walker is the same pattern as the last four-year period without a recession -- 2004 through '07 under Democrat Jim Doyle.

Marquette analyst Charles Franklin says the annual job increase in the 2000's has been limited to 35,000 no matter which party's in control in Madison.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said citizens should blame Wisconsin's aging factory base, a relative lack of entrepreneurs and venture capital for new high-tech firms, and fewer college-educated residents than other states.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wisconsin created almost 24,000 new jobs during the year ending in June. The increase was one percent, the 37th slowest job growth among the 50 states.

Democrats said the numbers cry out for a change in policies and leadership in next year's elections. Walker also tried to make the numbers look better to potential GOP voters.

He said Wisconsin ranked 25th in the actual jobs created, without regard to each state's population. Wisconsin ranks 20th in population, so the GOP's spin still had the Badger State falling short.

Both U.S. senators support budget compromise bill

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Both of Wisconsin's U.S. senators voted in favor of the two-year federal budget compromise that easily won final approval on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

The vote was 64- to 36 to send the package to President Obama.

Wisconsin's Ron Johnson was one of just nine Republicans to vote yes, joining Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

Obama called the budget "a good first step away from the short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy."

House Budget chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray hammered out the deal. It restores $45 billion in automatic federal spending cuts ordered last March in popular areas like defense. The reductions will be paid for with other spending cuts and fee increases.

The package also includes $23 billion in deficit reductions over a 10-year period -- something the bill's opponents said may never happen.

All 36 no votes came from Republicans. Johnson said he wished the automatic sequester cuts would have stayed in effect, but he said it's important to stop the threat of future government shutdowns.

Baldwin said the deal is not perfect -- but it does protect investments in research, innovation, and education.

Secret Service involved in Target security breach affecting 40 million

The Target Corporation confirmed Thursday that up to 40 million of its customers could have had their debit- or credit card information stolen in a security breach.

Media reports said customers at nearly all U.S. Target stores -- including about 40 in Wisconsin -- had their data stolen when they swiped their cards at checkout counters when completing their purchases. Target said it happened from the day before Thanksgiving through last Sunday.

The Minneapolis-based department store chain said it's working closely with law enforcement and financial institutions, and they've resolved the issue.

The Secret Service confirms an investigation, but won't say any more. Target said customers can now use their cards with confidence, as more shoppers are expected to hit the stores with Christmas just six days away.

The company told customers to monitor their card and bank statements for any signs of identity theft -- and to report suspicious activity to their card issuers and Target immediately.

Former newspaper reporter Brian Krebs broke the story on his "Krebs on Security" blog. He told a newspaper there's no way of knowing if any of the stolen data has been fraudulently used yet. He says the data normally has to be sold to black market buyers first -- and it could be months before any of it is used, if ever.

No one has publicly said how the hackers were able to compromise so many point-of-sale terminals. American Express said it was aware of the incident, and is putting fraud controls into place. Krebs said there's no indication that the breach affected Internet shoppers on Target's Web site.

State Senate to act Thursday on BadgerCare extension

MADISON -- Wisconsin senators were to meet at noon Thursday to consider a three-month delay before dropping tax-funded health insurance for almost 100,000 people.

The Senate will act on what the Assembly approved 15 days ago -- giving Badger-Care recipients above the poverty line until March 31st to sign-up for Obama-care before losing their state coverage.

The same goes for 20,000 people in the state's high-risk insurance pool that's about to be disbanded. Most minority Democrats oppose the delay. That's because it would make 83,000 childless adults below the poverty line wait another three months to get their first Badger-Care coverage.

Republicans blame the Obama-care sign-up difficulties online. The state's proposals will save taxpayers $23 million, but Senate Democrat Julie Lassa of Stevens Point says the savings could have been $100 million, had Republican Gov. Scott Walker not rejected Obama-care Medicaid funds.

Lassa also claims the state could have created 10,000 new jobs, which would have helped Walker keep his promise to create a quarter-million new jobs during his term.

Walker has all but admitted he won't reach that goal anyway. He said he didn't take the Medicaid funds because the federal government could cut them off eventually, leaving the state with a huge expense it might not be able to afford.

Democrats say they could have taken Medicaid money only for the three-month delay period -- but GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said it didn't make sense to change a major fiscal policy for that short of a time.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU-Wausau, Bob Hague, Wisconsin Radio Network

UW Green Bay Chancellor stepping down next summer

GREEN BAY -- UW Green Bay Chancellor Tom Harden says this year will be his last.

He announced in a campus e-mail Wednesday that he'll step down next August, after five years in the post.

Harden said the time is right for a transition to something new.

He and his wife plan to stay in Green Bay -- where he'll help with campus fund-raising, and a possible return to teaching in 2015. Harden said he made the announcement now, so school officials can conduct a national search for his replacement. He hopes a new person can come on board in time for the start of next fall's classes.

Harden has spent about 35 years in higher education.

Before coming to Green Bay, he was the president of Clayton State near Atlanta for nine years. He was also an instructor at Northern Kentucky in electronics, hydraulics, and industrial technology. UW Green Bay has close to 6,500 students.

Harden joined UW Stout Chancellor Charles Sorenson, who recently announced his intent to retire after 25 years of leading at the Menomonie campus.

Meanwhile, the first phase in the hiring of a new UW president is expected to be finished Friday when a screening committee is scheduled to give a list of finalists to a selection panel.

University officials plan to announce the finalists' names on Jan. 2. The selection committee will then nominate the winning candidate -- and the Board of Regents is then expected to make a hiring decision later in January. The new president will replace Kevin Reilly, who's leaving at the end of this year to become an adviser for the American Council on Education.

Great Lakes Higher Education Corp. expanding at SP

STEVENS POINT -- Up to 150 jobs are expected to be created as the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation opens a new customer service facility in Stevens Point.

Agency official Marc Storch says about 20 people have been hired already, answering phone questions about things like student loans.

A temporary call center is located in downtown Stevens Point, while a permanent state-of-the-art facility is being developed in a remodeled space close by.

The Great Lakes group works with the U.S. Education Department and private lenders on financial aid. It also gets state funds to develop partnerships between businesses and Wisconsin technical colleges.

Gov. Scott Walker attended an announcement event Wednesday. He called the facility a perfect fit for Stevens Point's downtown.

Walker said hiring is expected to grow gradually over the next two years.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Panel set to act on pay raise for 2,400 state employees

MADISON -- A legislative panel was to decide Thursday whether 2,400 unionized state employees should get one percent pay raises.

The Joint Committee on Employment Relations will be asked to endorse raises for five smaller state unions that represent attorneys, education professionals, economists, nurses, and research analysts.

If the committee votes yes, the full Assembly and Senate would still have to ratify the new contracts.

The raises would be retroactive to the start of the state's new fiscal year July 1.

Non-union workers -- the vast majority of the state government's workforce -- were given one percent raises this summer.

Critics accuse lawmakers of dragging their feet on the unions' contract approvals.

U.S.S. Milwaukee christened, but still a year from service

Marinette Marine C-E-O Chuck Goddard said boat it constructed still needs to pass a series of tests and trials -- and it will be shipped to the Navy in 12 months.

Still, the company called the ship's completion a satisfying event. It was observed with the usual breaking of a champagne bottle -- which took 10 attempts -- across its hull, which pushed the boat sideways into the Menominee River.

The U.S.S. Milwaukee took two-and-a-half years to build. It's a cutting-edge littoral combat ship, with the ability to conduct water combat close to enemy shores with a smaller number of crew members. It's the fifth boat named in honor of Wisconsin's largest city.

Gov. Scott Walker, who spoke at the ceremony, said it honored Milwaukee while showing "the exemplary workmanship of Marinette Marine." Walker said it was a symbol of the commitment to national security.

A short video of the ceremony can be viewed here:

Man facing charges in UW-SP student's death

WAUSAU -- A 26-year-old Hancock man is facing a possible homicide charge, for supplying the heroin that killed a U-W Stevens Point student last month.

Police said Wednesday that 21-year-old Jordan Peterson died from a drug overdose - and the suspect gave the heroin to the victim on the day he died.

Peterson, a senior biology pre-med student, was found dead Nov. 17th when his roommate returned to their off-campus apartment after a weekend away.

Police say they'll recommend a count of first-degree reckless homicide. It's the charge that's allowable under Wisconsin's Len Bias law, which is named after a pro basketball prospect who died from a drug overdose in the 1980's.

Peterson is from the Markesan area, and many of his relatives now live in central Wisconsin.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Old grenade causes hubub

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Police removed a surplus military grenade from a north side house early Thursday.

Police sent its Hazardous Devices Unit to the house around 5 a.m. after getting a call about the grenade. Officers recovered it an hour later.

They said it was an empty hull and was not a live explosive.

Mom faces neglect charge after toddler escapes twine 'leash'

MADISON -- A Madison woman faces a possible child neglect charge, after a snow-plow driver saw her two-year-old son wandering outside wearing just a diaper and a T-shirt.

Police said the 22-year-old woman tied the toddler to a bed on Tuesday while she went out to run errands. He apparently broke away from the four-feet of twine rope she allegedly used to keep him inside -- and he ventured outside while temperatures were in the 20's.

The snow-plow driver placed the young boy in the cab of his vehicle while waiting for Madison police officers and fire department rescuers to arrive.

He was taken to a hospital to be checked out, but did not suffer from hypothermia.

Police are seeking a misdemeanor neglect charge. It has not been filed yet, but she's tentatively due in court Monday. For now, she's free on a $250 bond.

Former teacher's union leader passes

MILWAUKEE -- Lauri Wynn, a civil rights activist and the first black president of the state's largest teachers' union, has died at age 83.

Her daughter said the 83-year-old Wynn passed away at Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital Wednesday from complications of breast cancer. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Wynn was once a Milwaukee teacher who was involved in the 1970's desegregation movement. In 1973, she became the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Wynn later received the James Howard Baker Award which honors contributions to Milwaukee's African-American community.