- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Walker to release state budget amid presidential talk

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is set to release his plan for solving Wisconsin’s $2 billion budget shortfall amid growing interest in his likely presidential run.

Walker, a Republican who was re-elected to a second term last year and has quickly been taking steps for a White House run, was scheduled to deliver his budget outline Tuesday to the Republican-controlled state Legislature in a prime-time speech being broadcast live statewide.

Walker’s budget was not expected to include any tax increases, even in the face of the shortfall and after his own Department of Transportation secretary called for raising taxes and fees by about $750 million to pay for roads and other projects.

Democrats have criticized Walker and Republicans for using a previous surplus to pay for nearly $2 billion in tax cuts - targeting income, property and manufacturing taxes - over the past four years. Those tax cuts helped fuel the current budget gap.

Walker promised on the campaign trail to continue cutting property and income taxes, but he’s not expected to make dramatic moves over the next two years, given the size of the state’s budget shortfall.

Just to continue spending at its current levels, the state will be about $928 million short by mid-2017. If state agencies get what they request, which they certainly won’t, the shortfall grows to $2 billion.

Walker has already said he’s ignoring the University of Wisconsin System’s request to get $95 million more and instead will call for a $300 million cut, while also freezing tuition and granting more freedom from state oversight and laws.

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Walker raised $30M in final 18 months of campaign

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker raised more than $30 million in the final 18 months of his successful re-election campaign.

But Walker, who is considering a possible run for president, didn’t finish his re-election campaign with much left for future races. According to a campaign finance report filed with state election officials, the Republican governor spent much of what he raised to defeat Democratic challenger Mary Burke and finished the race in November with only $278,000 in the bank.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1z89Bawhttp://bit.ly/1z89Baw ) reports Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive, raised $18.8 million. That includes at least $5 million that Burke gave her own campaign, according to her filing.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.comhttp://www.jsonline.com

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Groundhog bites Wisconsin mayor’s ear during ceremony

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) - A mayor in Wisconsin has learned a valuable lesson about his city’s weather-predicting critter: Don’t get too close.

Jimmy, the official groundhog in Sun Prairie, bit the mayor’s ear during a Groundhog Day celebration on Monday.

The groundhog’s handler was holding the animal next to Mayor Jonathan Freund’s face when it promptly bit down.

Freund flinched, but he went on with his declaration that Jimmy had predicted an early spring.

WISC-TV reports (http://bit.ly/16792SPhttp://bit.ly/16792SP ) that the Groundhog Day celebration became even more precarious when Jimmy’s handlers, Jerry and Maria Hahn, said the mayor had gotten it wrong and that there would be six more weeks of winter.

The city later issued a statement saying only the mayor can translate Jimmy’s prediction.

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Coroner: 3 Milwaukee County men die following winter storm

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating three deaths believed to be connected to heavy snowfall over the weekend.

According to the office, a 69-year-old Shorewood man with a history of heart issues died Sunday afternoon after shoveling snow. Officials say a 62-year-old West Allis man who has a history of high blood pressure and cholesterol died Sunday night after he collapsed while snow blowing.

The office reports the third snow-related death happened Monday afternoon, following an incident involving a 64-year-old Milwaukee man with a history of heart disease.

A foot of snow was recorded at General Mitchell International Airport following the winter storm that began Saturday night and continued into Sunday evening.

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