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Top Stories February 27, 2015

Legislative Fiscal Bureau State Budget Analysis


2/27/15 - The proposed two-year state budget would leave Wisconsin with a net balance of around 58-million dollars when it expires in mid-2017.  That's what the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said in a 559-page analysis released Thursday. Fiscal experts examined Republican Governor Scott Walker's proposed 68-billion dollar spending package.  Lawmakers on the Joint Finance Committee will use the analysis as a starting point when it begins to consider re-writing the package.  State agency leaders will explain their departments' budget proposals when they appear before the committee next Monday through Wednesday. After that, the panel will hold public hearings before submitting a revised budget package to the full Legislature late this spring.  Among other things, the fiscal bureau says bonding amounts to just over two-percent of Walker's total budget package.  He has come under criticism from lawmakers of both parties for suggesting that the state borrow for new-and-improved highways instead of seeking the tax-and-fee hikes that the D-O-T secretary had recommended. Also, lawmakers are critical of the budget's plan to borrow money for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, and to have N-B-A players pay it back with their expected increase in income taxes in the coming years. 


Meanwhile, about 150-thousand low-income adults in Wisconsin might have to start paying premiums to keep their Badger-Care -- and they might have to pay more if they smoke, or engage in other risky behaviors.  The Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the governor would need a federal Medicaid waiver to charge premiums for the first time to the lowest-income childless adults on Badger-Care Plus.  The proposal did not disclose the exact types of risky behavior that could trigger premium increases.  Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children-and-Families says he wonders if a single person making less than 11-thousand-800-dollars a year could pay any premiums.  He tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the Obama administration would probably not approve Walker's waiver request.  Peacock said a few states like Iowa and Indiana charge premiums for their Medicaid coverage -- but if they didn't pay, the poorest people still got at least some care.  Claire Yunker of the state Health Services agency says the details for the waiver request are still being prepared -- and it would be premature to comment further.


Walker Criticized For Comparing Protestors To Terrorists


2/27/15 - Governor Scott Walker said the way he handled the Madison union protesters in 2011 helped prepare him for dealing with world terrorists.  Walker, a potential G-O-P presidential hopeful, made the remark yesterday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington.  Democrats and union leaders condemned the remark, but the Walker camp said there was no way he was comparing any American citizen to the Islamic State.  During a question-and-answer session, Walker said, "I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that threats from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil.  We need a leader with that kind of confidence."  Walker continued, "If I can take on 100-thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world."  New York union representative Jim Tucciarelli said it's not terrorism for Wisconsin citizens to speak up for what they believe in.  Betsy Kippers of the state's largest teachers' union said it was "disgusting" that Walker would compare educators -- whom she called "everyday heroes" -- to international terrorists.  A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee said that if Walker finds it appropriate to compare working people to brutal terrorists, he's less qualified to be president than he thought.  Walker said he only mentioned the protests to show he could handle a difficult situation. Walker campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski later said her boss was really saying that when he's faced with adversity, "he chooses strength and leadership." Walker has been at-or-near the top of early state and national polls among possible G-O-P White House candidates.  A number of those hopefuls will speak at the conservative conference this weekend.


Highway Committee Approves Cambria Shop Contractor


2/27/15 - The Columbia County Board’s Highway Committee approved the hiring of a contractor to design and construct a new shop in Cambria at its meeting this week.  Jewell Associates of Spring Green was the selection after the committee received presentations from each of the four invited firms.  Jewell quoted the lowest price for designing both the shop and a new salt shed at roughly $70-thousand dollars.  The new shop just off Highway 146 will be at same location where the existing 75-year-old building stands.  This project is part of the county’s largest building effort to date with upwards of $45-million dollars in borrowing having been approved by the County Board last November.  The maximum allotted amount for the shop and shed project is $1.2-million dollars.  Columbia County’s Executive and Finance committees will now review the proposal before it goes to the County Board for final approval.  


Interim MPTC President Discusses New Role


2/27/15 - The interim President of Moraine Park Technical College says she likes her new role so far.  Bonnie Baerwald was MPTC’s Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services when she was named by the Moraine Park District Board as interim president to fill in while the college looks for the successor to Sheila Ruhland. Ruhland left to become President of Tacoma Community College in Tacoma, Washington. Baerwald says she’s been with MPTC a long time and understands the way it works. When asked if she would have any interest in becoming MPTC president, Baerwald said she’s considering it at the board’s request and while it is not currently one of her career goals, she has not yet made a decision.


Beaver Dam Man Arraigned On Assault Charge


2/27/15 - A Beaver Dam man will proceed to trial on charges that he molested a teen runaway. Brock Schwarzenbacher waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday then entered a “not guilty” plea at a subsequent arraignment hearing to a felony count of Sexual Assault of a Child Under the Age of 16. The 25-year-old was arrested in October with the 14-year-old in his vehicle. The two had mutual friends and had met two weeks prior on Facebook. Schwarzenbacher told police that he thought she was 18-years-old and was reportedly visibly nervous and upset when he was told her actual age. He initially denied contact with the teen but later admitted to the relationship. If convicted, Schwarzenbacher could spend up to 40 years in prison.


Beaver Dam Teen Enters Plea To Retail Theft


2/27/15 - A Beaver Dam woman facing felony charges for stealing hundreds of dollars in merchandise from Wal-Mart has entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors. 18-year-old Karah Jorgensen pled to three misdemeanors counts of Retail Theft and had a felony charge dismissed but read into the record. Jorgensen and another teen stole around $1000 worth of items between last fall, including four straight nights from September 28 to October 1. Jorgensen was placed on probation for one year and ordered to pay restitution.


Vehicle Sales In Region Off To Good Start


2/27/15 - Vehicle sales in the region are off to a strong start this year compared to last year. According to the Waterloo-based industry tracking firm Reg-Trak, there were 248 cars and light trucks sold in Dodge County last month, up from 211 in January of last year, for an increase of 17-percent. Columbia County had ten more vehicle sales this year with 182 rolling off the lot, an increase of nearly six-percent from last January. Jefferson County vehicle sales were up 35-percent with 226 sales last month compared to 167 last year. In the nine-county south-central Wisconsin region, there were 3281 car and truck sales, an increase of 6.6-percent. There was a 15-percent increase in truck sales in the region from month-to-month while car sales plummeted seven-percent.


Gas Prices On The Rise


2/27/15 - Wisconsin gas prices are almost 34-cents higher than the buck-95 we were paying a month ago.  Analysts say the increases are far from over -- and fuel prices might not go down again until May.  Patrick DeHaan of Gas-Buddy-Dot-com said gasoline wholesalers had increases of 10-to-27 cents a gallon this week due to a major price rally.  He said he expects "aggressive" retail price hikes in the weeks ahead.  Also, DeHaan says oil refineries in five states have operational issues of some type, all of which are driving down supplies. There's also the steel-workers' strike at 12 U-S refineries that began at the start of February -- recent increases in crude oil prices -- plus the normal gas price hikes we see each year around this time, as suppliers switch-over to summer-grades of gasoline.  Chicago analyst Jim Ritterbusch tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it might take 6-to-8 weeks for oil supplies to exceed consumer demands, to the point in which pump prices are driving down.  Gas in Beaver Dam is holding steady at $2.29 which, according to, is in-line with the statewide average. The price of regular unleaded is up almost two cents from a week ago, and 34-cents more than a month ago.  Still, it's a lot cheaper than the $3.45 we were paying at this time last year.


Kohl’s Earnings Higher Than Projected


2/27/15 - Wisconsin-based Kohl's Department Stores reports higher revenues and earnings than what Wall Street analysts expected.  Kohl's, which is headquartered in Menomonee Falls and has a store in Beaver Dam, reported earnings of 1.83-a-share in the final quarter of 2014.  That was three-cents higher than what analysts at Zach Investment Research projected.  Kohl's said it had a net income of 369-million dollars from October-through-December, on revenues of six-point-three-four billion dollars.  That was higher than the six-point-three-oh billion that Zach projected.  For last year as a whole, Kohl's reported a profit of 867-million dollars, or 4.24 a share.  Its stock has jumped by 36-percent over the past 12 months.



Yesterday's Headlines
    - Unions To Protest Right-To-Work Bill
    - Sturgeon Spearing Season Sunsets On Lake Winnebago
    - MPTC Accepting Board Position Applications

For those stories and more click here.

For older stories visit our news archive here.