Morning State News Briefs: State to get $636 million in extra tax revenueWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin officials learned of a windfall this afternoon that could solve at least some of its budget problems. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the state should get an extra $636-million dollars in tax revenues in the current fiscal year and the following two years, through June of 2013. However, Governor Scott Walker said this afternoon that a new windfall in state tax revenues should pay down the state’s debt. And it does not change his insistence that state employees should pay more for their pensions and health insurance.
MADISON - Wisconsin officials learned of a windfall this afternoon that could solve at least some of its budget problems. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the state should get an extra $636-million dollars in tax revenues in the current fiscal year and the following two years, through June of 2013. However, Governor Scott Walker said this afternoon that a new windfall in state tax revenues should pay down the state’s debt. And it does not change his insistence that state employees should pay more for their pensions and health insurance.
Some state legislators want to use the money to reduce the losses in state aid to local governments and schools under Governor Scott Walker’s proposed state budget. Milwaukee Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) said it would “criminal not to let that be the first priority.” But Republican Senate Finance chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) says it’s not a quote, “whirlwind of new money” – and both she Assembly Finance chair Robin Vos (R-Burlington) want to pay down some of the state’s debt, and perhaps restore some of the things Walker cut in his two-year budget package. The Fiscal Bureau said the projected jump in tax revenues was due mainly to higher individual income tax collections. They more than off-set sales and business taxes, both of which had smaller increases than expected. Walker said he would work with the Legislature to decide what to do with any revenue that’s left over. But he will not change his mind about virtually ending the collective bargaining powers of public employee unions. Walker has said the move is necessary for state-and-local officials to handle cuts in their revenues.
If a member of Congress had her way, federal judges could no longer interrupt Wisconsin’s efforts to manage its own grey wolves. House Republican Candice Miller of Michigan has introduced a bill to remove federal protections against wolves in all 48 mainland states. Miller says Congress needs to act because lawsuits from environmentalists have repeatedly blocked efforts by the states to regulate their wolf populations. Wisconsin has had its own management plan for years. It allows problem wolves to be killed if they damage farm crops or livestock. But court rulings have blocked the state’s plan several times over the last decade. Last week, the U.S. Fish-and-Wildlife Service said it would remove grey wolves from the endangered species list in the Upper Midwest and the Rockies. The agency said both areas have done well on their own to grow and manage their wolf populations. Wisconsin has about 700 grey wolves. About 5,500 animals are affected by the recent order.
Brown County’s chief prosecutor said police officers were justified in shooting a man to death outside his townhouse in De Pere. District Attorney John Zakowski said officers repeatedly told Daniel LeCleir to drop his gun. And when he pointed the weapon at Sergeant Ron Van Price, officers fired 15 shots in response. Four of them struck LeClair. Police were called to his house on March first after getting a report that he was suicidal. According to Police Chief Derek Beiderwieden, LeClair told his estranged wife he was going to “put a bullet in his head.” The couple separated late last year. During the police incident, the chief quoted LeClair as saying “Which of you is going to shoot first” – or, “Which of you am I going to shoot first.” Authorities said he had anti-depressants in his system at the time, and his blood alcohol was more than three times the legal limit for drunk drivers.
A Janesville man accused of killing two people in a drunk driving crash is back in custody, after he walked away from a Madison hospital where he was being treated. 21-year-old Omar Tavizon-Ramos was apprehended yesterday, after police received a tip that he was in a Janesville apartment. Police said he was driving at up to 100-miles-an-hour when he slammed into a vehicle on Easter Sunday – killing two people who were delivering newspapers and injuring a passenger in his own car. Tavizon-Ramos was taken to UW Hospital in Madison, and police said they didn’t guard him because his injuries would prevent him from escaping. But he took off Monday night, after he was allowed to step out for fresh air. Tavizon-Ramos was charged yesterday in Rock County Circuit Court with two counts of drunken homicide, one count of causing injury by drunk driving, and misdemeanor bail jumping. A court date was not immediately set.
Wisconsinites are getting grayer. The U.S. Census Bureau says the number of residents 55-and-older grew by 317,000 in the last decade. And that accounts for almost all of Wisconsin’s total population gain of 323,000 since the 2000 Census. Also, the state’s median age went up from 36 to 38-and-a-half. Katherine Curtis of the UW-Madison Applied Population Lab says the increase could be due to two things – more older folks retiring here, and more young adults leaving the Badger State. Many conservatives have said for years that Wisconsin retirees leave in droves to escape high taxes as well as the cold winters. But Jim Dau of the AARP says people want to retire where they’ve lived, worked, and have friends-and-relatives.
Governor Scott Walker has lost his first cabinet member, less than five months into his term. Workforce Development Secretary Manny Perez resigned yesterday, saying he wanted to return to the private sector. He did not say where he’ll work. Perez was the president and co-owner of JNA Staffing, a Milwaukee job placement firm, for three years before joining the Walker cabinet in January. The resignation takes effect immediately. Deputy Secretary Scott Baumbach has become the interim workforce development secretary. He previously worked as a labor law attorney.
A plan in Milwaukee County to cut 20 percent of the funding for the Mental Health Complex won’t actually save the county any money. County supervisors say the $36 million dollars in savings will be spent on services needed to shift patients into community-based and in-home care. Originally, county leaders had hoped they could use the extra money to bail out other struggling county programs. That won’t be possible at this time.
Fond du Lac police officer Ryan Williams is back on the job and hoping he will be on patrol by next month. Williams was shot in the chest and should last March as he entered a suspect’s home to investigate reports of a sexual assault. His first day back at work included training exercises with his K-9 partner Grendel and planning trips to the many local schools who offered and provided support as he was recovering.
Warm weather means people are getting back outside in Wisconsin. It also means you should be keeping an eye out for tiny deer ticks – and know the symptoms of Lyme disease. Lyme disease cases rose 35 percent last year in the state. Health officials suggest if you are going to the woods you should dress in long sleeves and keep your pants tucked into your socks or boots, keeping those ticks away from your skin. Insect repellents with 20 to 30 percent DEET can be effective against deer ticks.
After playing to thousands in Milwaukee last year, Willie Nelson’s “Farm Aid” concert is on the road again – this time to Kansas City Kansas. Nelson said yesterday that his one-day festival will take place August 13th at the new Livestrong Sporting Park. It’s the home of the Sporting Kansas City pro soccer team. Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews will join Nelson at the concert – and other performers will be announced later. Nelson started the “Farm Aid” show in 1985 to help struggling farmers stay on their land. Around 30-thousand attended last year’s show at Milwaukee’s Miller Park – the first time it was held in a Major League Baseball stadium.