WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: UW students will not pay any more for tuition, but their fees, room, and board will all go up
U-W students will not pay any more for tuition next year -- but their fees, room, and board will all go up under a budget passed yesterday. Meeting in Milwaukee, the Board of Regents voted unanimously for a university budget that includes a three-point-six percent hike in student segregated fees -- plus a room-and-board increase which averages two-point-seven percent at the four-year schools. U-W president Ray Cross said the increases were needed to cover student-initiated programs, dorm renovations and maintenance, rising food costs, and pay for non-faculty staffers. Total spending under the U-W budget will rise by one-point-seven percent in the next year, totaling six-point-one billion dollars. Regent Margaret Farrow tried but failed to approve a tuition hike for out-of-state students. She said they're getting a tremendous value. The governor and Legislature ordered the tuition freeze a year ago, amid criticism that U-W campuses were holding too much in reserves. The new budget addresses that, too, with average reserves of three-point-three percent. Board President Michael Falbo said Farrow's comments would not be forgotten when the U-W asks lawmakers to approve its next two-year budget in 2015. Governor Scott Walker has said he would propose a tuition freeze for those next two years as well.
Mary Burke will ask her fellow Wisconsin Democrats tonight to unify, and get behind her effort to defeat Republican Governor Scott Walker this fall. The annual State Democratic Convention will be held through tomorrow in Wisconsin Dells. Burke says the notion of a divided party is "hogwash," as she faces a recent primary challenge from Madison Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey -- who was not given a speaker's slot at the convention. Democrats are fired up by polls showing that Burke's keeping up with Walker. A recent Marquette poll had the two tied at 46-percent. However, 51-percent of those polled said they didn't know enough to form an opinion about Burke, the former Trek Bicycle executive who spent two years as former Governor Jim Doyle's commerce secretary. State Republicans have tried to equate Burke with Doyle, saying she'd move the state backward after Walker's regime added 100-thousand jobs and cut taxes by over two-billion dollars. Among other things, Burke has shied away from tax increases, supported efforts to get school students to consider career decisions earlier, and decried the polarization in state government. Some in both parties say Burke hasn't helped herself by not committing to overturn the G-O-P's near-elimination of public union bargaining privileges in 2011.
U-S railroads have until tomorrow night to tell Wisconsin and other states how much crude oil they ship through those places, and where. In response, three large railroads are asking states to sign agreements to keep the information secret. Lori Getter of Wisconsin Emergency Management said her agency would be violating the state Open Records Law if they did that. She tells the A-P the information will help local emergency crews become fully prepared for crude oil spills -- and it's good to let communities know as well. The federal government ordered railroads to disclose their crude oil shipping activity after a series of fiery rail-car mishaps -- including one in Quebec where 47 people were killed. Railroads that don't provide the reports could be fined 175-thousand dollars a day, and lose their privileges to ship domestic oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota. However, the administration said it would provide latitude for extenuating circumstances. Five other states besides Wisconsin have said they won't sign secrecy agreements sought by C-S-X, the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, and Union Pacific railroads. Three others have yet to decide. Railroads say the information is too security-sensitive, and it could put those companies at a competitive disadvantage.
Not many years ago, Milwaukee radio talk show Mark Belling called government offices on Friday afternoons to see if officials were working. He doesn't do that anymore -- and today, it's not just the mayor and bureaucrats skipping out for long weekends. The Society for Human Resource Management says 43-percent of companies with 50-or-more workers let at least some of their employees compress their work weeks, by putting in longer hours on fewer days for at least part of the year. Mercury Marine of Fond du Lac lets several hundred office employees work longer on Monday through Thursday, so they can take advantage of Wisconsin's short summers and start their weekends after Friday morning. The company says it has not figured out how to spread the benefit to factory workers and still keep the machines running -- but they're working on it. Lisa Horn of the Human Resource Management group tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that workplace flexibility is a great morale booster at a time when employees are doing more with less -- and it doesn't cost the employer much, if anything. Briggs-and-Stratton of Wauwatosa allows flexibility on an individual basis. Vice president Laura Timm says it's made for happier and more productive employees.
Both major political parties are trying to get opponents removed from the fall ballot, because of what they say are problems with their nomination papers. The head of the state G-O-P filed a complaint against State Capitol protester Jeremy Ryan, who's running against House Republican Paul Ryan of Janesville. Party director Joe Fadness said Jeremy Ryan got people to sign his papers under false pretenses, by holding up a sign that read "Sign Here, Legalize Marijuana." Ryan said he was only trying to attract people, and they were then told about his real purpose. The G-O-P also said some people signed Jeremy Ryan's petitions twice, and others had illegible dates and addresses. The Government Accountability Board will decide that issue and others involving nomination papers on Tuesday, and determine whether candidates have enough valid signatures to make the ballot. The G-O-P is also challenging Assembly Democrat Mandela Barnes' petitions, saying some signers didn't live in her Milwaukee district. Democrat Gary George of Milwaukee had his nominating petitions for Congress challenged. Labor leader Sheila Cochran said hundreds of George's signatures should be stricken for using felons as circulators, and having incomplete signatures with inaccurate dates. Dane County's Democratic Party wanted Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey's name taken off the ballot for governor, alleging that over 200 signatures had their municipal addresses forged. Hulsey denied it.
State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb disputes a claim that the Tavern League has had too much influence on a task force aimed at finding ways to curb drunk driving. That's what four of the group's 38 members said yesterday, when they resigned. The panel was formed last year to create a federally-required plan to reduce impaired driving. Twenty-six members endorsed the plan recently, while 12 others did not vote. Health First-Wisconsin director Maureen Busalacchi, Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project coordinator Julia Sherman, and doctors Stephen Hargarten and Richard Brown submitted their resignations in a letter. They said the Tavern League's participation posed a conflict of interest -- the plan's ideas are generally ineffective -- and the four members felt their participation "lends credibility to a hollow process." D-O-T leader Gottlieb said it was unfortunate the four members quit. He said he wants to meet with them, in the hopes they would reconsider. Gottlieb said the Tavern League's participation is appropriate because it runs the state's "Safe Ride" program for bar customers who've had one too many. He said the task force had input from a host of groups -- and he's open to having others participate in changing Wisconsin's drinking culture. Tavern League director Pete Madland denied his group posed a conflict, and he was surprised about the resignations.
An elementary school teacher in Eau Claire figured there was no way she'd find a diamond that was lost from her wedding ring. But a sharp-eyed Walgreens' drug store employee was able to save-the-day for Michelle Finder. She tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram she was out shopping last weekend when her ring got caught in a Walgreens' shopping cart. Finder was at another store later on, when she noticed that her ring got dull -- and then discovered that the diamond was gone. She went back to Walgreens, and left her name and phone number -- still believing the odds were against her for getting her diamond back. The next day, Finder was shocked to get a phone call from the employee she talked to. She found the tiny diamond near the store's cart area.