- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015
Walker to donate $3,500 received from white supremacist

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker plans to donate money he received in campaign donations from the leader of a white supremacist group cited by the Charleston church murder suspect.

Walker received $3,500 from Earl P. Holt, leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens, since 2011.

Spokeswoman AshLee Strong said Monday that Walker will donate the money to a charity benefiting the victims.

The Guardian newspaper says three other Republican presidential candidates got donations from Holt. The newspaper says Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas will return the $8,500 he received, while the campaigns of Sen. Rand Paul and Rick Santorum say they will donate money they received to a fund assisting victims’ families.

Gannett Wisconsin Media reported Rep. Paul Ryan $(1,000) and Sen. Ron Johnson ($1,250) also pledged to donate Holt contributions.

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Walker supports taking Confederate flag down

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker says he supports South Carolina’s governor’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of that state’s capitol.

Debate has been swirling over the flag after black church members were gunned down in Charleston on Wednesday, allegedly by a young white man who embraced the banner as a symbol of white supremacy.

Walker, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, tweeted on Saturday that removing the flag was a state issue and he expected leaders to debate it after giving the victims’ families time to mourn. He declined to offer his position to reporters in Washington, D.C. that evening.

On Monday South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said the flag should be removed. Walker tweeted that he’s glad Haley wants the flag gone and he supports her decision.

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New Wisconsin trooper contract calls for 3 percent raises

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker’s administration and the state troopers’ union have negotiated a new contract that calls for higher insurance premiums in exchange for a pair of raises paid through back wages.

The deal released Monday covers the 2013-15 biennium, which ends next week on June 30. The contract calls for a 3 percent raise for the year that ended in June 2014, paid through a lump sum for all hours worked during the preceding year. Troopers would get another 3 percent raise for the year that ends this June 30 with a lump sum payment for all hours worked during the preceding year. The final pay rate would stay in place going forward until another contract is reached.

The deal also would require troopers to pay more for their health insurance each month. The rates range from a few dozen more dollars per month for a single person to hundreds of dollars more for family coverage, depending on the plan.

The contract moves closer to what Republican legislative leaders wanted when they rejected a plan for a 17 percent average pay raise in March.

Troopers haven’t had a pay raise since June 2009, and officials with their union, the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association, said the raise was needed to retain troopers leaving for higher pay at other law enforcement agencies. But the contract requires Assembly and Senate approval, and GOP leaders said their caucuses would never go for that pay bump.

The Joint Committee of Employee Relations is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the new proposal Tuesday afternoon. The committee likely will vote following the hearing on whether to recommend full legislative passage.

Aides for the committee’s leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment on the new deal. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he’s reviewing the agreement ahead of the committee meeting but declined further comment.

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Construction on Madison skate park progresses swiftly

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Construction on one of the largest skate parks in Wisconsin is progressing swiftly in Madison.

The Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/1K6LUWzhttps://bit.ly/1K6LUWz ) reports that backers of the 20,000-square-foot park in the city’s Central Park say they expect it to draw skateboarders from around the Midwest. Construction on the $1 million skate park began in April and is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 19.

While the skate park is a city parks project, the Madison Skatepark Fund handled the fundraising. Founding member Pat Hasburgh said the group raised most of the money in 2013 after a $50,000 contribution from Willy Street Co-op served as a catalyst for additional support from local foundations.

“The whole experience has been really funny because we really didn’t have any fundraising experience going into this,” Hasburgh said.

Madison Parks Division Ann Shea says major earthwork operations have finished and the supporting retaining walls have been constructed. The two primary bowls have been poured and formed, but concrete pouring continues on the remaining features. Officials say there still is significant work that needs to be done, including the installation of the lighting system.

Skate park advocate Austin Lipinski, a member of the Madison Skatepark Fund and owner of a Madison-area skate shop, predicts the skate park will help boost the image of skateboarding and have a positive effect on the community and surrounding neighborhood

“It’s a long climb to find legal, safe places, where people can see how positive it can be for kids,” Lipinski said.

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