WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Farmers say bring on the heat
Wisconsin farmers say they desperately need the warm temperatures that are inching into the southern part of the state this week. The U-S-D-A says farmers continue to be way behind in their plantings of corn, soybeans and oats -- and the cold and wet spring is to blame. As of Sunday, 36-percent of the Wisconsin corn crop was in the ground -- 16-percent more than a week ago, but still well behind the five-year average of 61-percent. Observers say it continues to be cold below the surface, which means that the crops are emerging more slowly than normal. Parts of the southwest Wisconsin hit the upper-80's yesterday -- a sure-fire solution if it can last. It's supposed to cool down to the 70's for the Memorial Day Weekend in the south. In the north, some places only got into the 50's yesterday. Many of those places don't expect to see 70 for a while -- perhaps into next week when it's supposed to get warmer, and possibly wetter. Only eight-percent of the state's soybean crop has been planted, down from the norm of 26-percent. Fifty-five percent of the oat crop is in the ground, 30-percent behind the average. Crop reporters say the alfalfa and winter wheat generally look good throughout Wisconsin -- but they, too, need more heat in order to grow.
Voters in Eau Claire County will be asked to weigh in on two simmering issues this fall. The County Board voted last night to place referendums on the November ballot, asking if the state's minimum wage should be raised -- and whether Wisconsin should start taking federal Medicaid funds to help more low-income residents get Badger-Care. Eau Claire supervisors also urged the state to raise alcohol taxes, to help those battling alcohol problems. Lawmakers of both parties have refused for years to touch those taxes.
State Democrats tried but failed in the last session to gradually jack up the minimum wage from 7.25-an-hour to 10.10. Supervisor Nick Smiar said today's minimum wage is what it was in the 1960's, when inflation's added in. Also, he said about half of all U-S jobs pay no more than the minimum wage, in the wake of the Great Recession. Supervisor Mike Conlin agreed with many Republicans who say an increase would be a job-killer. On Medicaid, Supervisor Colleen Bates said Wisconsin pays more in federal taxes than it gets back -- so folks are paying for other states to get the increased Medicaid funds that Governor Scott Walker rejected. Walker said the Medicaid funding could run dry, leaving state taxpayers with billions in extra health costs.
The Medical College of Wisconsin has received two accreditations for its new doctor training facilities in the Green Bay area. They give the school the green light to recruit an expected inaugural class of 20-to-25 students, who will start training in mid-2015. The Higher Learning Commission, and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education both say the new school has the resources necessary to open. The new science building at Saint Norbert College in De Pere will house classroom and administrative space for the new Medical College branch. Students will also have coursework at U-W Green Bay, the Bellin nursing college, and the Northeast Wisconsin Tech campus. The Medical College, which is based near Milwaukee, says it wants to help train enough doctors to treat Wisconsin's expanding senior population from the baby boom. A college official recently said mental health training would be a big focus at Green Bay, with seven mental health residency programs to be established throughout the area. The Medical College is also working on a similar facility in the Wausau area.
A 50-thousand dollar Wisconsin Lottery winner from last fall has still not come forward -- and that person only has until June 10th to claim his-or-her prize. The unclaimed ticket is from the "Holly Jolly Raffle." It was sold at a Kwik Trip in Green Bay last November. The raffle number is 0-5-7 5-2-5, which was drawn on December 12th. All state lottery winners get 180-days to claim their prizes -- or else the money goes toward property tax relief for all Wisconsin homeowners. There's also a one-thousand-dollar winner from that same raffle drawing. That ticket was sold at the Party Mart in Lake Mills. Lottery officials say two-to-four million dollars in prizes go unclaimed in a normal year -- but rarely does a winner let a big prize slip away.
A ticket sold in Pennsylvania won the 149-million-dollar Mega Millions' jackpot last night. Only one other player won the second-prize of a million dollars. That was in Michigan. Many Wisconsinites won smaller prizes, but the totals were not immediately available. The numbers were 10, 40, 63, 64, and 69. The Mega Ball was seven, and the Megaplier was two. The jackpot had been building since April fourth, and it went unclaimed 13 times before somebody finally won it. The 149-million dollar prize is the largest in Mega Millions since two tickets shared a 400-million-dollar prize in mid-March. The jackpot returns to 15-million dollars for the next drawing on Friday night. Powerball still has a big jackpot up for grabs tonight, 114-million dollars.
Federal officials recommend almost 52-thousand dollars in fines against a Janesville plant that puts powder-coating on metal parts. The Occupational Safety-and-Health Administration has cited the firm of Power Coatings for 14 serious safety violations. "OSHA" said it found the violations when it inspected the plant last December. Officials said workers were exposed to toxic chemical hazards that can be avoided with respiratory protections, protective equipment, and proper training. Power Coatings was given 15 days to either pay the fines, challenge them, or seek a settlement conference for a possible lower penalty.