Christmas Day State News Briefs: State officials unhappy with budget shiftsWisconsin News
-- Several state officials are not happy about a plan to take some of their funding away, and use it for two state Justice Department programs.
MADISON - Several state officials are not happy about a plan to take some of their funding away, and use it for two state Justice Department programs.
The Associated Press reported on Christmas Eve that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen wants to take $10-million-dollars in criminal fine surcharges from other state programs – and to use it instead to make felony suspects give their DNA to law enforcement when they’re arrested, not just when they’re convicted. Van Hollen also wants to boost services for sexual assault victims – and he told the AP that the criminal fine surcharges should belong to his department, anyway.
Patrick Gasper of the state Department of Public Instruction said Van Hollen would take away funds for school programs like mock car crashes before homecoming to discourage kids from drinking. It would also take away at least some funds for public defender training, correctional officer training, overtime for police dealing with violent crime, and programs that keep people out of gangs. Marty Beil of the state Employees Union says Van Hollen’s idea is quote, “absolutely crazy.” He said there are not enough funds to train prison guards as it is – and he said that if Van Hollen needs money for DNA collection, quote, “Go to the Legislature and get it.”
Van Hollen says he isn’t really diverting funds from other accounts – those funds were already diverted from the state Justice Department. Van Hollen says the surcharge revenue is supposed to pay for Justice programs and the previous recipients should have to convince Wisconsin lawmakers they deserve the money from other sources.
The Corrections department said it would respond until they see what Governor Scott Walker proposes to lawmakers. He’s due to submit his budget package in February.
An inmate serving 10 year on a second-degree homicide charge has been placed in segregation at the Waupun Correction Institute. Officials at the facility say that inmate attacked a prison officer yesterday morning at about 7 a.m. The attack resulted in the shutdown of the cell block for about five hours. The injured officer was treated, then returned to duty. The Dodge County Sheriff’s office says additional charges are now pending against the inmate. No one else was involved in the attack.
Investigators say Angelina O’Mara first blamed the Hells Angels motorcycle gang for killing her ex-husband. Then, she blamed her boyfriend, Michael Pies. O’Mara was given a life sentence without the chance of parole for shooting James O’Mara to death at his Minnesota apartment. She’s also charged in Wisconsin with first-degree intentional homicide in connection with Pies’ shooting death. His body was found in an Ashland motel room in November of last year.
Madison police say shots were fired in a home invasion on the city’s east side Monday morning, but no one was hit. Two people entered an apartment on Vernon Avenue at about 11:25 a.m. The residents had just left. One of the suspects reportedly fired three rounds at a person who was connected to the targeted apartments and one of those rounds went through the wall of a neighboring apartment. Police say they think the residents of the apartment and the suspects know each other. They are still investigating the incident.
Wisconsin motorists are already getting a nice Christmas gift – lower prices than a year ago. The Triple-“A’s” statewide average for regular unleaded today is just over $3.19-a-gallon. That’s about nine-and-a-half cents cheaper than on Christmas Eve of 2011. Gas is about five-cents cheaper than last week at this time, but don’t be surprised to see an increase soon. The average U.S. price for gas went up by a penny-and-a-half during the weekend, to almost $3.25-a-gallon. And that’s two cents higher than the year before. The U.S. benchmark price for oil is down 24-cents today to almost $88.42-cents a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Not a creature is stirring at many of Wisconsin’s municipal buildings Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But come Wednesday, things will be bustling – especially at the treasurer’s offices, where home-and-business owners will line up to pay their property taxes. They can deduct the payments from their income taxes if they’re made by New Year’s. And with property values falling, treasurers are the ones who hear the grumbles from those whose homes have lost some of their worth – while their taxes just keep going up. Milwaukee’s chief assessor, Peter Weissenfluh, says everything depends on how a property’s assessed value compares to others throughout a community. And those values keep changing, in some neighborhoods more than others. Even when an assessed value goes down, there’s a chance you’ll still pay more in taxes. That depends on how the total property tax levy changes in a community from year-to-year.