Christmas Eve State News Briefs: Air National Guard website tracks Santa's flight across WisconsinWisconsin News
-- If you want to see how Santa Claus is getting around Wisconsin on Christmas Eve, just go on-line. The National Guard and Wisconsin Emergency Management said today they would provide regular updates of Santa’s trip.
If you want to see how Santa Claus is getting around Wisconsin on Christmas Eve, just go on-line. The National Guard and Wisconsin Emergency Management said today they would provide regular updates of Santa’s trip.
Madison’s Air Guard unit will provide a squadron of F-16 fighter jets. They’ll escort Santa around the Badger State, and provide updates to Wisconsin Emergency Management. Governor Scott Walker also made sure that Saint Nick, Rudolph, and company would get a proper greeting. The governor said a KC 135 Strato-tanker from Milwaukee’s Air Refueling Wing would meet the sleigh over Lake Superior – and they’ll have cocoa and power-bars for Santa, and carrots and water for the reindeer. If you want to track Santa’s progress tomorrow night, log onto Facebook-Dot-Com-Slash-ReadyWisconsin, or Twitter-Dot-Com-Slash-ReadyWisconsin.
Wisconsin’s working people will not pay higher Social Security taxes come January. The U.S. House and Senate both voted Friday morning to extend the current payroll tax cut by two months, to buy more time for a long-term agreement. Both houses passed the measure on voice votes, despite some grumbling from Tea Party Republicans. Milwaukee House Democrat Gwen Moore tweeted that she was pleased 160-million Americans won’t see a tax hike, and over two-million people will not lose their unemployment benefits. Without the agreement, officials said the average employee would have had to pay an extra 20-dollars a week in Social Security taxes after the holidays – and jobless benefits would have been phased out for those out of work longer than six months. Today’s extension came after GOP House leaders were the last to agree to it yesterday. Some Republicans demanded a full-year solution. Ashland Republican Sean Duffy said he still favored a one-year payroll tax holiday – but for now, he said Wisconsin families should pay more just because of what he called the “dysfunction in Washington D.C.” Sherwood House Republican Reid Ribble said he was tired over the partisan bickering over the issue. And he said some lawmakers lost sight of what’s important – keeping more money in people’s pockets.
The Rock County District Attorney’s office says Sergeant Richard Felger acted lawfully when he shot 26 year old Darryl Cooper to death last month. The shooting happened outside Rex Lanes. DA David O’Leary says he reviewed reports compiled by the state Department of Justice investigators. Cooper was at a large gathering at that bowling alley. He thought he had been hit by another man, so he went to his vehicle, got his gun and shot and injured a man from Madison. Felger heard the gunfire and confronted Cooper, who failed to comply when he was told to show his hands. Cooper shot Felger in the leg and the Town of Beloit police officer returned fire, killing Cooper.
A woman from Elkhorn will spend two and a half years in prison for defrauding the Wisconsin Shares program. Angela Stott will be on probation for five years after she gets out. Stott held the license for Little Angel Academy. It was one of dozens of day care centers suspended from the subsidy program, for receiving payments for children who rarely attended – or never showed up at all. Stott was convicted last month on two counts of theft by false representation. She has to repay 355 thousand dollars to the state.
Wisconsin state agencies have been ordered to make $123 million in spending reductions without layoffs, if at all possible. Taking another direct hit is the University of Wisconsin System, which has been told to trim another $46 million over six months. That’s on top of a previously announced quarter-billion dollar reduction over the two-year budget cycle. Governor Scott Walker’s Department of Administration released specifics of the plan yesterday. The Legislature budget committee is expected to hold a hearing next month to make sure core state services are not affected. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says the cuts disproportionately target higher education.
Milwaukee County authorities are looking for two teenagers wanted in connection with an oxycodone robbery spree. Two more teens are already in custody. Police say the four started last Wednesday night by robbing a Walgreens. They told the pharmacist on duty they were armed and they made off with an unknown quantity of the drug. They then tried to rob four more Walgreens stores, but a security confronted them at the location at 27th and Layton. One boy was arrested there, with the second taken into custody yesterday morning. Two are still at large.
Just in time for the holiday driving season, drivers in southeastern Wisconsin are hit with a 10 percent increase in the price of gas. The Milwaukee average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline was up to three dollars, four cents Thursday. Analysts say the price hike can be blamed on increased prices for crude and a drop in inventories. GasBuddy-dot-com reports prices in Wisconsin will likely be at their highest levels ever for a Christmas day.
The Neenah Common Council has reaffirmed a city policy banning employees from carrying weapons while they are on the job. Only sworn police officers are allowed to carry any weapon, open or concealed. The policy does allow city workers to keep weapons in their cars on city property while they are at work. The city attorney says the policy doesn’t apply to the mayor or aldermen, because they are elected officials and not covered by the disciplinary actions defined in Neenah’s personnel policies.
Leaders of the state’s largest teachers’ union met this week with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and urged him not to run in a possible recall election against Governor Scott Walker. Barrett has not given an indication that he would run anyway, saying he’s focusing on his re-election bid for mayor. But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said WEAC union leaders do not believe they convinced Barrett to definitely stay on the sidelines. The Democrat Barrett lost to the Republican Walker 52-to-47 percent in last year’s gubernatorial contest. Milwaukee’s City Hall was closed today, and Barrett was not immediately available for comment. The Journal Sentinel also said WEAC is trying to clear the way for former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk to run against Walker. The paper cited a union memo stating that Falk and former U.S. House Democrat David Obey of Wausau have as good of a chance as Barrett of unseating the governor.
Wisconsin will get part of a $70-million legal settlement involving General Electric. State attorney general J.B. Van Hollen said GE is settling allegations that its Finance Division engaged in bid-rigging involving municipal bonds. He said G-E’s conduct also included fraud, and agreements with other potential bidders to stay out of the market for certain bonds. Van Hollen said the number of government and non-profit groups affected by the settlement – and the amounts they’ll get – will be determined later.
There’s another sign today of how much wider Wisconsinites are opening their wallets. Sales tax receipts for the Milwaukee baseball stadium district went up seven-point-eight percent in 2011, compared to a year ago. People in Milwaukee and four surrounding counties pay a one-tenth of one-percent sales tax for the financing of Miller Park. And the stadium district received $26-million in sales tax contributions – one-point-two percent more than the Stadium Board had budgeted. The contributions reflect sales taxes paid by consumers through October. Depending on how the economy goes, the district expects the sales tax to end between 2016 and 2018 when all the bonding is paid off.
A man killed in a Shawano County traffic crash overnight has been identified as 57-year-old Alan Steichen of Clintonville. Sheriff’s deputies said the vehicle he was driving lost control on a curve and hit a tree. It happened about 12:55 this morning in the Shawano County town of Westcott.
A federal judge in Madison has sentenced a Mexican drug dealer to two-and-a-half years in prison for illegally entering the U.S. for a fifth time. 36-year-old Juan Xoletl-Hernandez pleaded guilty in October to an illegal re-entry charge. That was after he was arrested in 2009 in Madison for dealing cocaine. He spent 20 months in prison for that.
Sheboygan will be a port-of-call for an upscale Great Lakes cruise ship next summer. The Yorktown will carry up to 138 passengers on seven one-week cruises throughout the Great Lakes from June through August. Sheboygan will be the only Wisconsin stop on each trip. Sheboygan County tourism director Amy Wilson says local leaders are excited – and it’s another way to put the community on the map. Officials have tried to for some time to get the city to host a cruise ship – but the Sheboygan River in the South Pier area is too shallow. The Army Corps of Engineers will fix that, when they deepen the channel. It’s now about four-feet deep – and the Corps will make it 14-feet deep. The Yorktown’s cruises will begin-and-end in both Detroit and Chicago. They’ll cost anywhere from four-thousand to seven-thousand-dollars.