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Wisconsin roundup: Finance panel to resume budget talks — but not road funding; 9 more state news stories

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, shown here during an April visit to Ellsworth, will consider several items Wednesday, including the elimination of the state property tax for forestry programs. File photo

MADISON — A state panel will get back to rewriting the new state budget Thursday for the first time since June 15.

But lawmakers will not act on the main issue that's holding up the budget's approval — how to pay for new highways. Instead, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will consider several other items, including the elimination of the state property tax for forestry programs. They'll also consider making counties pay more to send youth offenders to the state's embattled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake boys' and girls' institutions near Irma in Lincoln County — after counties have sent fewer offenders there because of alleged inmate abuses which continue to be investigated. Majority Republicans have disagreed on things like road funding and the size of a proposed increase in state public school aid — and that's holding up approval of a budget that was supposed to take effect July 1.


Autopsy planned on missing kayaker

FISH CREEK — Door County sheriff's officials say an autopsy is planned to determine how a 20-year-old kayaker from Salem died.

Rescue divers found the body of Joseph Quagliano on Wednesday. He went missing last Saturday while kayaking off Peninsula State Park on the Bay of Green Bay. Officials say the body was discovered close to where his kayak was earlier found.


Ryan: Government shutdown not needed for border wall

HILLSBORO, Ore. — House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville says it is not necessary to shut down the federal government to squeeze out funding for the proposed Mexican border wall.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday night he would veto the next federal government funding bill if it does not include his campaign promise for a border wall — and he told a rally in Phoenix the wall will be built "if we have to close down our government."

Ryan told reporters in Oregon Wednesday that the GOP controlled House has already approved funds for border security, and the more narrowly divided Senate would need more time to do the same. Ryan was at Intel headquarters to continue his campaign for tax reform — and he did not believe most people want to see a government shutdown, Congress included.


Western Wis. flood damage not enough for FEMA individual aid

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker says homes and businesses in western Wisconsin did not have enough flood damage to qualify for FEMA's general disaster relief.

But Walker has still asked President Donald Trump for money to fix public amenities like roads and bridges in eleven counties where up to 7.5 inches of rain caused mudslides, evacuations by boat, and $10 million of damage to public infrastructure July 19-23. Walker wants public FEMA assistance for Buffalo, Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Lafayette, Monroe, Richland, Trempealeau, and Vernon counties.

If approved, the feds would pay 75 percent of repair costs, with state and local governments to cover the rest. The Small Business Administration recently approved low interest loans for far southeast Wisconsin where up to eight inches of rain caused record floods on the Fox River at Burlington and New Munster.


State grocery chain files for receivership, slims down

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A 51-year-old grocery chain in the western half of Wisconsin has announced a second round of store closings.

Gordy's Market said Wednesday it would immediately shut down stores in Spencer, Stanley, and Richland Center. That's after the Chippewa Falls based food outlet reached an agreement with its main supplier to bring in a receiver to improve the chain's financial numbers. The receiver, Milwaukee lawyer Michael Polsky, says small family owned grocery chains are finding it "much harder to compete" due to rapid changes in the industry — and company president Jeff Schafer says it wants to return to its roots with a smaller organization. Before filing for receivership, Gordy's closed stores in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, and Hayward — and Festival Foods said it would buy two Gordy's stores in Eau Claire and one in Tomah.


State to add prosecutor for meth cases

MADISON — The state Justice Department is about to add a new prosecutor to handle methamphetamine cases.

Attorney General Brad Schimel says meth continues to be a growing problem, especially in the northwest part of the state where rural counties have only one or two prosecutors — and they get "overwhelmed" with those types of cases. That's why a new assistant attorney general will be added in Eau Claire, but it's not known when.

Schimel says the new person will work primarily to try and cut off the supply of illegal drugs that enter the state — and much of that has been from Mexico, and reportedly funneled through the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area.


$758M Powerball prize won; four state players win $50K

Somebody in Massachusetts is about to become super rich.

One Powerball ticket from that state matched all the numbers Wednesday night to win a jackpot of $758.7 million, the second highest in American lottery history. Nobody from Wisconsin took the one-million dollar second prize — but four tickets sold in Green Bay, Madison, Reedsburg, and West Allis each won the $50,0000 third prize by matching everything but one regular number. More than 178,000 Wisconsin tickets won smaller prizes ranging from $4 to $400. The Wisconsin Lottery has not said how many tickets were sold for Wednesday's drawing, but the number of winners was close to 20 times what we'd see for a smaller jackpot — which goes back to the minimum of $40 million for Saturday night.


New gummy bear plant could get $21M in tax breaks

PLEASANT PRAIRIE — A German company that created the gummy bear will get $21 million in state income tax credits if it creates 385 jobs at a new Wisconsin plant.

State officials confirmed the tax break Wednesday for Haribo, which plans to build its first North American gummy bear factory in Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County. Haribo first said in March it chose the community just north of the Illinois border for a new 500,000 square foot candy plant. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says that to get the tax breaks, Haribo must spend $220 million on the facility and maintain the jobs it promised through 2028, starting with 50 full time jobs by the end of 2019 and 50 to 80 each year through 2024.


Evers confirms gubernatorial bid, immediately quizzed on issues

FITCHBURG — State public school Superintendent Tony Evers made his Democratic bid for governor official Wednesday at a park in Fitchburg.

As the only statewide elected office holder to run against incumbent Scott Walker, reporters immediately asked Evers about his stands on issues. Evers, the fourth Democrat in the governor's race, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he supports a hike in the state's minimum wage but not to the $15 per hour level many Democrats want.

He also vowed to renegotiate the state's package for Foxconn and consider a higher gas tax for road work instead of adding more debt — but he would not try to repeal a nearly total tax exemption for factories and farms.


Three sentenced for growing remote marijuana

CRANDON — Three Milwaukee area men have avoided state prison time for growing 600 pounds of marijuana in a remote part of northeast Wisconsin.

Thirty-three-year-old Steven Wasechek resigned as a Milwaukee city code officer after he was arrested, and he got two years of probation and eight months in jail. Thirty-five-year-old Kevin Hying of Big Bend got ten months in jail with work release privileges and three years on probation — and 52-year-old Dennis Pratt of Waukesha got one year in jail and three more on probation. All three men pleaded guilty to a total of eight charges that included manufacturing marijuana and eight other counts were dropped in plea deals. They were arrested last fall and cocaine and drug paraphernalia were seized along with the marijuana.