- Associated Press - Saturday, January 3, 2015
Governors’ inaugurals fueled by political donors

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - When it comes to parties, ringing in the new year has nothing on the swearing-in soirees for governors across the country.

Eleven new governors are taking office this month, and nearly two dozen others are renewing their oaths for another term. Many will celebrate with chart-topping bands and blowout balls, with much of the bill footed by the same supporters who bankrolled their victorious campaigns.

The festivities include a parade, concert headlined by Lady Antebellum and four tons of brisket for a barbecue in Texas, where the governor’s inaugural committee seeks to raise $4 million. In Pennsylvania, organizers of the party for the newly elected Democratic governor are asking donors for up to $50,000 apiece.

Critics see the events as another for corporations and wealthy individuals to win political favor.

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Walker, Legislature focusing on budget problem in 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The more conservative Wisconsin state Legislature that begins its two-year session next week faces a $2.2 billion budget shortfall and several tough issues including right-to-work, cutting income and property taxes while raising other taxes and fees for transportation needs and expanding the private school voucher program.

But the budget problem looms heavy over the Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker, whose promise to cut taxes will be complicated by it.

Also hanging over every debate is whether Walker will run for president in 2016. Walker has said he’s seriously considering it, but if that’s true he will need to start spending time in Iowa sooner rather than later in 2015, which could put the Legislature on an accelerated schedule.

Walker told The Associated Press he sees a possible presidential bid as motivation, not distraction.

“My viability as a potential candidate is largely driven by how well my state’s doing,” Walker said. If Wisconsin doesn’t do well, he said, “I’m not on that list anymore.”

Walker begins his second term on Monday with even larger Republican majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. That should ease the passage of his agenda. He’ll propose most of it in his two-year state budget to be introduced likely in early February, with hoped-for passage by late spring.

Walker has said he wants to be aggressive in pushing his second-term agenda. In addition to tax cuts, it includes entitlement reforms, consolidating and reducing the size of state government and passing a school accountability bill.

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Major issues facing Wisconsin Legislature this year

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker begins his second term Monday as the Legislature reconvenes with larger Republican majorities for a two-year session. The big issues they’re likely to face:

- How to plug a $2.2 billion state budget gap. Walker is to introduce his plan in early February and lawmakers will spend months altering it before voting on the tax and spend plan likely in late spring.

- Whether, when and how much to cut property and income taxes, as Walker promised on the campaign trail. That promise is made more difficult by the budget shortfall.

- What to do about roads. The Department of Transportation wants $751 million in higher gas taxes and fees to plug its own budget gap, but Walker hasn’t said what he will support.

- Whether to enact right-to-work legislation. Such laws prohibit unions from forcing private-sector workers to join them or pay dues as a condition of employment.

- Loosening or dropping altogether the enrollment caps on the private school voucher program. It is currently capped at 1,000 students for schools participating outside of Milwaukee and Racine. Republicans want it to grow, but cost is a worry.

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Man charged for assaulting K-9 dog during arrest

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - A 29-year-old Iowa man has been charged for assaulting a police K-9 dog while he was being arrested New Year’s Eve in Wisconsin.

The Wausau Daily Herald reports (http://wdhne.ws/1Bufey3) Andrew Devens was arrested Dec. 31 after allegedly assaulting a 23-year-old woman and breaking a car windshield with a tire iron. He allegedly struck the police dog, a Belgian Malinois named Csibi, several times.

The woman did not require medical treatment. Csibi wasn’t seriously injured and remains on active duty.

Devens’ bail was set in Marathon County Circuit Court Friday at $10,000.

Authorities say Devens was drinking and told police he would resist arrest. He faces a misdemeanor charge of striking a police animal, battery, resisting or obstructing an officer, criminal damage to property and two counts of disorderly conduct.

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