- Associated Press - Thursday, April 10, 2014
UW System finished March with $1.7 billion

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The University of Wisconsin System finished the first three quarters of fiscal year 2013-14 with more than $1.7 billion on hand and should finish the year with about $1.1 billion left over, according to new data released Thursday.

The figures come as the Board of Regents’ finance committee is preparing to approve tweaks to a new policy governing the size of system institutions’ surpluses during a two-day meeting at UW-River Falls.

System officials have been the target of intense criticism over the past year after word broke the campuses had finished fiscal year 2012 with $1 billion on hand while tuition rose year after year.

The state budget that Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed in June froze tuition and required the regents to craft a policy governing how much cash each campus can have on hand.

The regents in October approved a plan that calls for campuses to finish each fiscal year with cash on hand totaling at least 10 percent of their yearly expenditures. If they finish with more than 15 percent of expenditures, they would have to justify it and get regent approval.

The Legislature’s audit committee refused to approve the policy in November, though, saying it was too jammed with technical detail. System officials have revised the policy, clarifying definitions and tacking on a provision that campuses can’t use the 10 percent target as a rationale to request any additional funding, including tuition increases.

The finance committee was set to vote on the plan Thursday. UW System spokeswoman Heather LaRoi had no immediate comment on whether the panel had approved the policy by Thursday afternoon. Approval would clear the way for the full board to take it up on Friday in River Falls.

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Oshkosh Corp. laying off 760 from defense division

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Oshkosh Corp. said Thursday it plans to eliminate about 760 jobs from its defense division this summer, or 29 percent of the group’s workforce, a decision driven by lower demand for its mine-resistant trucks and other military vehicles.

About 700 hourly positions will be cut beginning in June, and 60 salaried positions will be eliminated starting in July, the Wisconsin-based company said. Oshkosh Defense will be left with about 1,850 employees.

The overall company has about 12,000 employees worldwide.

“We need to reshape our workforce with U.S. defense spending down as a result of tight government budgets and a return to peacetime operations,” said John Urias, the executive vice president of Oshkosh Corp. and president of Oshkosh Defense.

Urias said the company plans to contact county and state workforce-development agencies and local companies to help the affected employees find other jobs.

Shares of Oshkosh Corp. fell $1.80, or 3 percent, to close Thursday at $57.28. Shares have traded in a 52-week range of $33.88 to $60.45.

The Obama administration is ending combat operations in Afghanistan on Dec. 31 and has begun withdrawing troops, although it would like to leave up to 10,000 troops to continue training Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism missions.

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Indiana Gov. Pence to address Wisconsin GOP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will deliver the keynote address at the Wisconsin Republican Party state convention next month.

The party announced Thursday that the first-term governor will give the speech at the annual gathering on May 3.

Other speakers include Wisconsin Gov. Scot Walker, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

Pence says in a statement that he was excited to join with fellow Republicans to unite behind Walker, who is running for re-election this year. Pence says that unlike “the failed leadership in Washington, states are leading the way forward with real change and a renewed focus on the taxpayer, not on bigger government.”

Walker is being challenged by Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state commerce secretary.

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Fungal disease fatal to bats spreads to half of US

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A fungal disease that has killed millions of North American bats is spreading and now has been detected in half of the United States, officials said Thursday.

Wildlife agencies in Michigan and Wisconsin said they had confirmed diagnoses of white-nose syndrome in tested bats, further evidence of the ailment’s rapid expansion since it first was documented in a cave near Albany, N.Y., in 2006. Cases have turned up in most states east of the Mississippi River, with Georgia and Alabama joining the list in March, and as far west as Missouri and Arkansas.

Officials said the latest discoveries were no surprise but a cause for sadness, acknowledging they had no cure and could take only limited steps to protect the winged mammals that provide an enormous economic and ecological benefit by feasting on nuisance insects that gobble crops and trees.

“We face the loss of multiple bat species and the benefits they provide to our ecosystems and our people,” said Erin Crain of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

White-nose syndrome is named for the fuzzy spots it plants on victims’ muzzles, wings and tails. It doesn’t affect people or other animals but repeatedly interrupts bat hibernation, sapping their energy and fat stores, which can cause starvation and dehydration.

More than half of the 45 bat species in the U.S. hibernate during winter. Many seek out caves or mines, an ideal environment for spreading the killer fungus as bats clump together on the moist walls.

Some might survive if they contract the illness late enough in winter. But the refuge could be a death trap for those that return the following year. And some will move on to other enclosures and infect them - particularly during fall mating season when huge flocks of bats sweep in and out of caves and mines, said Allen Kurta, an Eastern Michigan University scientist.

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