- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015
Budget panel authorizes borrowing for building projects

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Legislature’s finance committee has authorized borrowing tens of millions of dollars for building projects around the state.

The committee voted 12-4 Wednesday to approve four projects, including a science lab at Carroll University, an Eau Claire arts center, an agricultural education center in Manitowoc and renovations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s chemistry building.

The Carroll lab would be funded with $3 million in bonds and $23.5 million in gifts and grants. The arts center would be funded with $15 million in bonding. The agricultural center would be funded with $5 million in bonding and $6.6 million in gifts and grants. The UW-Madison chemistry building renovations would be funded with $86.2 million in bonding and $21.6 million in gifts and grants.


Budget committee approves long-term care changes

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republicans who control the Legislature’s budget committee adopted most of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan Wednesday to expand the Family Care program and incorporate elements of the IRIS program into it, pushing aside pleas from minority Democrats and advocates for the disabled to leave both programs alone.

The GOP lawmakers tweaked Walker’s plan in places, adding language that guarantees enrollees would still have a say in developing their care plans and would keep receiving state stipends to cover services they need just as IRIS provides.

Advocates for the disabled still balked at the move. They predicted the changes would disrupt the lives of thousands of people who rely on IRIS. Committee Democrats, wearing “Save IRIS” buttons, argued during a hearing that the plan would make people’s lives harder.

“Let’s just drop it,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. “The uncertainties are mind-boggling. We shouldn’t even be walking down this road right now.”

Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ concerns as hyperbole and scare tactics, insisting their plan protects self-directed services for the disabled and would lead to better integrated care.

“Let the circus of political opportunism continue,” said Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield. “We’re looking to make these programs sustainable. That’s where the intent lies.”

The committee voted 12-4 to insert the GOP revisions into the budget after 3½ hours of debate. All four Democrats on the panel voted against the changes.


Abrahamson appeals order allowing her to be replaced

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson has appealed a federal court ruling temporarily denying her attempt to remain as chief justice.

Abrahamson on Wednesday filed an appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of a decision earlier this month that allowed Justice Patience Roggensack to remain as chief justice for now.

Four conservative justices on the court voted to replace the liberal Abrahamson with Roggensack on April 29. Abrahamson filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that she can’t be replaced until her term ends in four years.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson on May 15 denied Abrahamson’s attempt to temporarily block the justices from voting to replace her. Peterson determined there was no harm in Roggensack serving as chief justice while Abrahamson’s lawsuit continues.


Unemployment drops in all Wisconsin counties, big cities

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Unemployment rates dropped in all Wisconsin counties and the 32 largest cities in April.

The state Department of Workforce Development reported the latest figures Wednesday.

Racine had the highest unemployment rate last month at 6.9 percent, which was down from 8 percent in March. The second highest was Beloit at 6.4 percent and Milwaukee at 6.3 percent.

The lowest city unemployment rate was 2.9 percent in Fitchburg, Madison and Sun Prairie.

County unemployment rates ran from a low of 2.9 percent in Dane County to 11.3 percent in Menominee County.

The local unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted and therefore not comparable to the state unemployment rate which was 4.4 percent in April. The national unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.

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