STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: US Bureau of Labor Statistics to release its quarterly job census today
We'll find out today how well Wisconsin compared to other states in creating jobs in the first quarter of this year. The U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its quarterly job census. It will tell us how many jobs each state created during the year ending in March -- and we'll get to see if Wisconsin's jobs are growing at a faster or slower pace than most other states. Previous reports showed that Wisconsin created 62-thousand jobs in 2011-and-2012. The Badger State had the 31st fastest job creation rate at the end of last year, up from 44th place just three months before. Walker's administration recently said the state created 24-thousand private sector jobs during the year ending in March. That puts Governor Scott Walker about a-third of the way toward his campaign promise to create 250-thousand jobs, with less than half his term to go. Lately, Walker's been trying to downplay that promise as he stands for re-election in just over 13 months. He recently said the quarter-million job figure is now a goal instead of a promise. At the governor's Small Business Summit in Stevens Point yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch said the state is not creating the jobs it hoped, but the state's still moving in the right direction. Kleefisch said up to 80-percent of new jobs are created by small businesses.
Wisconsin's two U-S senators joined all of their other colleagues yesterday in advancing a bill to keep the federal government funded beyond next Tuesday. The House passed the measure last week and included a de-funding of President Obama's Affordable Care Act -- something majority Senate Democrats are expected to strip from the bill. Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Ron Johnson both agree that a government shutdown should be avoided at all costs. To achieve that, both houses would have to agree on a package by next Tuesday, the start of the federal government's new fiscal year. Johnson says the final bill should include changes to Obama-care -- including the removal of an excise tax on the makers of medical devices. Johnson says the tax has already caused problems with medical research. Baldwin says she wouldn't mind if the tax is tweaked, but not repealed. She also said those issues should be resolved later -- and the only topic now should be to avoid a government shutdown. Yesterday, Baldwin took part in a media briefing on how Obama-care will improve women's health. Among other things, she said women will finally get access to private insurance plans that cover maternity care.
A high-rise Interstate bridge in Green Bay will stay closed indefinitely, to repair a long dip that was found early yesterday. Officials said a reinforced concrete pier apparently settled about three-feet deeper into the ground than normal. That caused a major sagging of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge over the Fox River. The dip is about 400-feet long and 20-inches deep. It crosses all four lanes of I-43. State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said during a news conference that the bridge is in no danger of collapsing. Governor Scott Walker said the bridge is important to northeast Wisconsin's economy and quote, "We will fix this." Kim Rudat of the state D-O-T said the bridge will be closed for months, maybe a year, while the exact problem is identified and repaired. Photos show that an entire footing sank into the soil. The pier is one of dozens supporting the tall bridge, located in an industrial area between the Bay of Green Bay and the city's downtown. A detour has been set up. The bridge was last inspected 13 months ago. Cracks were found in the piers, but were said to be from normal wear. Federal reports rated various parts of the bridge as good-to-satisfactory a year ago. It resurfacing and maintenance work done this year as part of a 17-million-dollar upgrade of I-43. The Leo Frigo bridge opened in 1981. It carries about 40-thousand vehicles per day.
We're living longer -- but we're not feeling better. That's according to a new report from the U-W Madison Population Health Institute. It shows that mortality rates have improved over the last decade for all age groups in Wisconsin. Still, more people say they're in poor health. Health problems are said to be down from things like smoking, excessive drinking, and teen births -- but other negative trends are on the rise like violent crime, more high drop-outs, and the stresses of being unemployed. U-W researchers are also sounding an alarm over what they call gaps in the factors that influence people's health. One of those is racial. The U-W says three-of-every-10 African-Americans in Wisconsin report being in poor health, compared to about one-of-every-10 whites. Also, child poverty rates are rising much in faster in urban areas than in rural and suburban communities. The report warns that if current health trends are not addresses, Wisconsin will have poorer health outcomes and greater gaps in the future.
The D-N-R is considering a new restriction on bringing firewood into state parks, to slow the spread of the tree-killing emerald ash borer. Firewood is the main carrier of the ash beetle, which moved into far northwest Wisconsin for the first time this year. Yesterday in Pembine, the state Natural Resources Board agreed to hold public hearings on reducing the distance that firewood can be brought onto state-owned properties from 25-miles to 10. The limit does not apply to firewood certified as being pest-free by the state Agriculture Department. It will continue to be against the law to bring in firewood from other states. Public hearings on the new rule are set for October 29th in Madison, Eau Claire, Wausau, and Green Bay. Five new counties have been quarantined this year for the emerald ash borer -- Jefferson, Dodge, Sauk, Winnebago, and Douglas.
Beloit College has made a national list of schools that most obsessed with -- get ready for this -- squirrels. The Huffington Post reported on Tuesday that students thought something was wrong when they returned to school and did not see any squirrels. Some assumed there was a conspiracy to get rid of them, but the Ivy League school denied it. With that in mind, Huffington found 10 other schools where students had their minds on the squirrel population. The Huffington Post Web site has a video in which the Beloit College squirrels describe what it's like to live there. Beloit estimates that 200-thousand squirrels are hanging around the campus, which is close to the city's downtown.