WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Labor Day Weekend travel undeway
The last of Wisconsin's summer holiday weekends is underway. The AAA Club says almost three-quarter million state residents are hitting the road for Labor Day -- and that doesn't count the out-of-state visitors coming in.
The state DOT says the heaviest traffic will be from now until eight tonight, and from noon-to-8 Monday. Rain is in the statewide forecast for most of the weekend. Gas is almost 14-cents cheaper than a year ago. The AAA said the statewide average was $3.43-a-gallon today for regular unleaded. Ten people were killed in Wisconsin highway crashes last Labor Day Weekend. Again this year, the State Patrol and local law enforcement are cracking down on drunk driving with their annual "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign. Road construction crews shut down their work at noon today for the weekend. The major road projects that will affect holiday traffic include the re-building of Milwaukee's Zoo Interchange, I-94 in Kenosha and Racine counties, I-90 at La Crosse, Highway 41 in spots from Oshkosh to Green Bay, and the Bong Bridge from Superior to Duluth. Updated road reports are available by calling 511 or logging onto 511WI.gov.
Authorities said a 22-year-old man was fighting for his life this morning, after he was critically injured in a car-surfing incident. It happened just after midnight in a private field near Norwalk in Monroe County. Sheriff's deputies said Joseph Miller climbed through a sun roof, and was riding on top of the vehicle when the driver put it in reverse. That was when Miller fell, and hit his head on a rock. He was first taken to a hospital in Sparta before being transferred to Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse -- where he was in critical condition at last word.
A Waukesha man who's in prison for possessing child pornography in North Dakota must now pay $3,250 to one of his victims. U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon of Fargo said it's the first time restitution has ever been ordered in a federal child porn case in North Dakota. Fifty-eight Robert Evans of Waukesha was sentenced to ten years in prison after he was convicted last fall on 14 federal counts of child porn possession. A victim submitted a compensation claim after Evans was convicted. Those claims are allowed under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from April. It said those who trade child porn images to other adults can be held liable for related losses that a victim incurs.
A 20-year-old Milwaukee man who was murdered during a street argument last night has been identified as Nikola Maric. Police said he was walking on Milwaukee's southwest side close to nine o'clock last night, when he got into a dispute with two other men. Maric was then shot-to-death. No arrests had been made as of early this afternoon.
A man who killed a snow-plow driver and fled the scene while driving drunk will spend four years in prison. Sixty-six year old Gregory Price was also put on ten years of extended supervision, after he pleaded guilty yesterday to an Eau Claire County charge of drunken homicide. Other counts, including fatal hit-and-run, were dropped in a plea deal. Authorities said the victim, 74-year-old Joseph Miller, was plowing snow with an ATV when Miller's vehicle struck him and kept going. Witnesses followed Price after he took off, and they called authorities.
A recount has changed the results of a Wisconsin Democratic state Senate primary. The Government Accountability Board said it received final results showing that Spring Green lawyer Pat Bomhack had 3,837 votes, to 3,804 for former DOT budget director Ernie Wittwer. That's a margin of 33 votes in Bomhack's favor, after Wittwer was ahead by seven votes in both the Election Night tally on August 12th and a later canvass of the counties' ballots. Board member Gerald Nichol expects to certify the recount canvasses late this afternoon. After that, Wittwer will have five business days to challenge the results in court if he chooses. Earlier this week, Wittwer said he was consulting with an attorney about it. Officials said 110 ballots cast in Monroe were missing, and city police are investigating. The Accountability Board said Wittwer lost a net of 30 votes in all of Green County, where Monroe is located -- so that, in and of itself, did not flip the election's outcome. For now, Bomhack has won the right to face state Assembly Republican Howard Marklein of Spring Green in November, for the Senate seat given up by Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center.
Governor Scott Walker is downplaying the state's new report that tax collections were two-percent lower than projected during the last fiscal year. The Republican Walker told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee today that the $281-million revenue shortfall could be resolved in the new fiscal year by controlling expenses and expanding the economy. If that doesn't happen, officials say the current two-year budget will end up $115-million in the red next June. Walker and his GOP legislative majority cut taxes by two-billion dollars during his four-year term that's up in January. Democrats called the tax cuts irresponsible. Walker agrees it will be a key issue in his November election against Democrat Mary Burke. She and the governor have also sparred over the state's latest report that almost 29,000 private sector jobs were created in the year ending in March. That's about 500 jobs more than the last such report three months before -- which showed that Wisconsin's job growth was only about half the national average. Walker points to the jobs lost during the Great Recession when Democrat Jim Doyle was in charge. The governor also points to a 5.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest since the recession began in earnest in 2008.
The White House confirmed today that President Obama will speak on Monday afternoon at Milwaukee's annual Labor-Fest. He's scheduled to speak at the Summerfest Grounds at 1:55 p-m on Labor Day. Officials say only ticketed guests will be allowed in. It's the third time in eight years the Democrat Obama has spoken at Milwaukee's Labor-Fest. About seven-thousand people heard him last time in 2010. Sheila Cochran of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council said working people will be "excited" to hear the president talk about jobs, the economy, and the rights of workers.
In 67 days, Governor Scott Walker will face Wisconsin voters for the third time in four years. Today, the Republican Walker said one of his biggest concerns is that his voters are getting complacent and fatigued. This week's Marquette University Law School poll showed that more Democrats than Republicans would definitely vote in November -- while Walker and Burke are in a virtual dead heat. The poll also showed that more Democrats are circling the wagons, as Burke's support among likely voters in her party has grown from 84-percent in January to 95-percent now. That's higher than what Tom Barrett got from Democrats when he ran in the Walker recall contest in 2012. Walker continues to get 96-percent support from likely Republican voters. Still, the governor said on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee that he senses voter fatigue after his initial victory in 2010 and the hard-fought Republican recalls of both 2011-and-'12. Walker also promised to spend the next several weeks unveiling an aggressive agenda for voters to consider for a second term.
S.C. Johnson of Racine says it's voluntarily recalling one of its insect repellents. The company said there was a packaging issue involving Off Botanicals-One, a spritz product in four-ounce clear plastic bottles. Johnson said it does not affect the proper use of the repellent -- but the sprayer unit could be removed from its bottle more easily than intended. The company said there could be rare instances in which consumers accidentally drink some of the chemical if the sprayer is removed too easily -- and the liquid can be harmful if it's swallowed. S.C. Johnson said there has been no problems reported with its four-ounce Botanicals Repellent-One. For more information, you can go online and log onto BotanicalsInfo.com.
The manufacturing economy continues to grow in southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois -- but not as fast as in July. An index that keeps track of factory growth was at 59.6 for August, down 63-point-nine in July. Anything above 50 indicates positive growth, while anything below 50 shows a decline. Marquette University and the Milwaukee chapter of the Institute for Supply Management put out the index. It's based on surveys of industrial purchasing managers. The index for new factory orders was almost 68 for August, down from 76 in July. The manufacturing employment index was 60 for this month, up slightly from almost 57 the month before.
Wisconsin's cranberry industry is looking to China to drum up business -- and the prices growers receive for their fruit. An oversupply of domestic berries has kept those prices down. So this week, the state agriculture department brought in a group of potential Chinese buyers to tour central Wisconsin cranberry bogs and meet with local growers. Professionals from a number of Chinese industries made the visit, which was funded by a block grant from the USDA. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune said the meetings did not produce any business deals, but Tom Lochner of the state's cranberry growers association said it was great to establish relationships. He said the visit was successful in introducing the state's cranberry industry to Chinese businesses that might not have been familiar with it. Roger Zhang of SMH International said China's cranberry market has grown in the last three years, as people learn more about the fruit's nutritional benefits. Wisconsin makes about 60-percent of all U.S. cranberries. The state expects a harvest of five-point-four million barrels this year.