WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Some state prison wardens getting heft pay raises
A half-dozen Wisconsin prison wardens are getting some big pay raises of 8-to-13 percent. The state Corrections Department said it created new salary targets for the wardens, because their current salaries are much lower than the state's other career executive posts.
The wardens were targeted to make close to $100,000 a year -- but state rules would not allow such increases if they stayed in their current jobs. So a number of wardens were transferred to other institutions, where their pay was allowed to be bumped up. Officials recently granted one-percent pay hikes to most rank and file state government employees -- and some prison guards are not happy about the wardens getting more. Red-granite correctional officer Paul Mertz told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel it's quote, "naked cronyism." You might remember that Mertz won a pay dispute last year -- only to have the decision reversed in January. An equal rights' officer said Mertz should have been paid for the time he checks in at a daily roll call, and then walking a few minutes to his guard post. The officer's supervisor later reversed that ruling.
A van that was sending a Milwaukee County Jail inmate to the state prison in Stanley crashed this morning, and two people were injured. It happened on Highway 45 near Winneconne. Winnebago County sheriff's deputies said the van slid off the highway and overturned. The inmate suffered leg pains, while the contracted van driver had head-and-back pain. A second officer in the vehicle escaped injury, but all three were still taken to an Oshkosh hospital for observation. The crash is still being investigated.
The Fond du Lac School Board has not decided whether it will consider reversing a new policy allowing a principal's review before student publications can go out. The Board heard opposition to the policy last night from students and others. The panel has not scheduled a meeting to discuss it further. Administrators imposed the pre-publication policy after a Fond du Lac High School magazine published a story outlining a "rape culture" in the school, complete with so-called "rape jokes." The story featured anonymous stories of sexual assault victims. Officials said it was inappropriate for younger students. One Board member called the new policy "adult oversight." Critics -- including a number of English teachers -- called it censorship.
Racine Police are looking for the people who knocked over almost two dozen headstones at a cemetery. Officials said the vandalism took place between Friday and yesterday at Racine's Mound Cemetery. Police said some of the damaged headstones dated back to the 1800's, and were considered irreplaceable.
About one of every three packs of cigarettes sold in Wisconsin are either counterfeit, or are not taxed properly. That's according to the Tax Foundation, which says the Badger State is the nation's fifth-largest importer of smuggled cigarettes. A new report said 34.6 percent of Wisconsin's smokes were not taxed, were taxed improperly, or were counterfeit. New York is the highest followed by Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington state. Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation blames the new smuggling on a big gap between low-tax and high-tax states. Three of every five states have jacked up their cigarette taxes to discourage folks from smoking. Henchman said those policies often have quote, "unintended consequences that outweigh their benefits." Wisconsin increased its cigarette tax from 77-cents a pack to $2.52 in the years before Republican Scott Walker became the governor in 2011. The Tax Foundation said smuggling includes counterfeit tax stamps, fake versions of legitimate cigarette brands, trucks that are hijacked, and officials who look the other way. The report said small-time hustlers can make money selling cigarettes for less than the market charges -- while larger operations rob trucks and steal tax stamps. The Kenosha News says neighboring Illinois has a cigarette tax of $1.98 -- 54-cents a pack cheaper than in Wisconsin. The exception is Chicago, where the tax is a whopping $6.16.
Madison's Edgewood College has chosen one of its own as its new president. Executive vice president Scott Flanagan was named today to replace Dan Carey, who will retire in August after a decade at the private Catholic institution. Flanagan has been at Edgewood for 16 years. He currently oversees admissions, athletics, marketing, communications, and financial aid. Flanagan will become only the seventh president in Edgewood's 86-year history. He was chosen over two other finalists -- former state public school Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster, and Marietta College vice president Robert Pastoor of Ohio. Edgewood has close to three-thousand students.
A big political show is brewing in Las Vegas this week, featuring Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and three other governors who are possible GOP White House hopefuls. Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will speak Saturday to the Republican Jewish Coalition conference at the Venetian Resort and Casino on the Vegas Strip. Their audience will be donors who gave at least a-thousand dollars to the Jewish Coalition. Ohio Governor John Kasich will appear at a luncheon, while ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush will speak at a Thursday night VIP board dinner. The Los Angeles Times says the governors will have an early opportunity to quote, "frame their foreign policy arguments." The Washington Post says the four will each get one-on-one chats with Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson. He and his wife donated $92-million in the 2012 presidential race -- and Adelson gave a quarter-million to Walker's recall election defense in 2012.
Governor Scott Walker's main election opponent is unveiling a comprehensive plan today to create jobs, encourage entrepreneurs, and boost higher education. Democrat Mary Burke went into detail in a forum at Marquette University in Milwaukee. The former Trek Bicycle executive says Wisconsin has everything it takes to have one of the strongest economies anywhere, but it's not even close. Burke said Wisconsin ranks 48th in new business start-ups, creating jobs at a pace that's half the national average. She said the state should invest its resources in entire industries -- not individual companies. Burke said it would highlight the common interests of each industry, and provide more benefits. She also supports lower college tuition, and more capital to help new businesses get off the ground. Burke's plan avoids the major pitfall facing Walker's campaign, by not promising a certain number of new jobs. Walker made his pledge for a quarter-million new jobs the hallmark of his campaign in 2010 -- and with only a year left in his current term, only 41-percent of those jobs are on the books. Burke said she has better benchmarks for Wisconsin -- like how it matches up with other states in job growth, the numbers of college graduates, and how grads many stay in Wisconsin to work.
State officials did not have to explain how wind turbines affected property values, when they imposed standards on where those turbines should be located. That's what a state appeals court ruled today. State Realtors, builders, and local town officials sued the state Public Service Commission, after it approved new rules in 2012 for locating the high-tech windmills. The plaintiffs said the rules were not valid, because the PSC never wrote a report on the how the rules affect home and land values. A circuit judge in Brown County said the report was not required. The Third District appellate court in Wausau agreed this morning. It said a report is only needed when state rules directly affect housing. The PSC concluded that wind turbines do not affect land values, although many residents still disagree. The court said it agreed with the PSC's conclusion.