Assembly votes on tax-cut bill today; McDonald’s owner charged with drug trafficking; More state briefs
A $100 million property tax cut will be up for a final vote at the State Capitol this afternoon.
The Assembly is expected to send the measure to Gov. Scott Walker, who proposed the tax cut last Thursday. At that time, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he couldn't imagine why any lawmaker would vote against lower taxes.
Five senators managed to do so Tuesday when the upper house overwhelmingly passed the tax cut 28-5. The opponents said average homeowners would only get an extra buck or two sliced off their taxes each year -- and the money would be better spent on schools and highways or reducing the state's debt.
They also accused the GOP of trying to make Walker look better as he stands for reelection next year. One of Walker's potential opponents -- Democrat Mary Burke -- said the other shoe will drop after those elections when officials will have a larger deficit to slice back in the 2015 state budget.
That deficit, though, is not nearly as high as other governors and lawmakers have faced since the 1990's. Republicans said the tax cut resulted from a higher than expected surplus in the last budget, and taxpayers should get that money back.
McDonald’s owner charged with drug trafficking
A suburban Milwaukee restaurant owner is accused of using three McDonald's locations to pay for a drug trafficking operation and to launder profits from those drugs.
A federal grand jury has indicted Edward Patterson, 58, of Whitefish Bay on counts of possessing marijuana, conspiring to deliver it and money laundering.
Four other Milwaukee-area suspects have been charged, along with a 42-year-old California man. They're all accused of sending large amounts of marijuana from the Golden State to be sold in the Milwaukee area.
Fifteen search warrants were executed as part of the operation. Agents seized $90,000, 11 guns and an undisclosed amount of marijuana.
Patterson owns McDonald's restaurants in Glendale, Mequon and Fox Point. Officials said he made three drug deposits in the restaurants' checking accounts totaling over $12,000.
Clark County man dies after police chase
A 39-year-old Neillsville man was killed after he rolled his vehicle while being pursued by a Clark County sheriff's deputy.
It all started around 1 a.m. Wednesday when deputies were told that a vehicle was driving through yards near Neillsville in the town of Pine Valley.
A short time later, the deputy was almost struck head-on when a vehicle reportedly crossed a centerline. The officer said the vehicle appeared to be one that was going through yards so he chased the driver with his lights and siren activated. Officials said the vehicle sped through a stop sign and went out of control a short time later. It veered into a ditch and rolled over several times.
The driver died at the scene. A passenger was seriously injured. No names were immediately released. An investigation continues.
--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau
Some truckers will drive 65 mph no matter what
If Wisconsin raises the speed limit to 70 on rural interstates, at least one trucking firm says it won't speed up.
Marten Transport of Mondovi says its drivers will keep going 65 no matter what. Susan Deetz told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram that her company's vehicles are geared for 65 -- and an increase to 70 would hurt safety and fuel mileage.
The Assembly passed the 70 mph bill Tuesday, but it's not certain whether the Senate would pass it -- or if Gov. Scott Walker would sign it.
The bill includes a study of whether non-interstate four-lanes should be raised to 70, and if Wisconsin should have split speed limits of 65 mph for trucks and 70 mph for the rest of us.
Marten Transport opposes that idea. Schneider National of Green Bay cites a 20-percent increase in traffic deaths when the speed limit is raised by 5 mph, like all of Wisconsin's neighbors have done.
Freshman Assembly Democrat Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point said GOP legislators "didn't do their due diligence." She told WSAU Radio in Wausau that she tried getting more in-depth information but was stymied.
Freshman Assembly Republican John Spiros of Marshfield said the same thing. With two large trucking companies in his area, he cited safety concerns.
Shankland also said it would cost $130 a sign to make changes on over 1,200 miles of rural interstates.
But not all carriers are opposed. The Chippewa Valley Airport Service, which shuttles people from Eau Claire to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, said it would be a great time-saver for its customers.
Sleep-deprived trucker gets 20-year term
A trucker has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after he drove his rig almost non-stop from Milwaukee to western Nebraska where he killed a family in an Interstate crash.
Josef Slezak, 37, of River Grove, Ill., was sentenced Wednesday after he struck a plea deal.
Authorities said he fell asleep at the wheel on I-80 near Sidney, Neb., last September and rear-ended a car.
Christopher and Diana Schmidt of Gaithersburg, Md., were killed, along with their children ages two and three. Diana was also 30-weeks pregnant with another child.
Slezak earlier pleaded no contest to four charges of vehicular homicide, plus one similar count involving an unborn child. Four manslaughter charges were dropped in the plea bargain.
Engineers find many problems with sagging bridge
GREEN BAY -- State officials now say the foundations of seven piers will have to be replaced at the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge.
The I-43 bridge over the Fox River was closed three weeks ago yesterday when it sagged two feet due to a drop in one of the 51 piers that support the high-rise structure.
Department of Transportation engineers said underground pilings for one of the piers corroded and the chemical make-up of the surrounding surface soil contributed to the problem. Now the DOT says new tests have shown the soil composition of six adjacent piers is similar to that of the one that sank. The tests were completed as crews began installing two truss supports to keep the bridge from sagging any further.
A permanent repair plan for the Frigo bridge is expected in at least a couple weeks. The bridge will be closed for at least several months until all the repairs are made.
Harley-Davidson recalls 29,000 motorcycles
Harley-Davidson is voluntarily recalling some of its 2014 motorcycles due to a safety concern.
The Milwaukee-based company reports a hydraulic problem in which the clutch might not disengage, thus making it hard to slow down or stop.
The problem affects seven new models of Harley's Touring motorcycles plus three models of its Trikes and Softail CVO's.
Owners of the affected bikes are being urged to contact their dealers for inspections. Repairs will be made for free.
A total of 29,000 bikes are being recalled. They were made between early May and Monday of this week. More information is available at Harley-Davidson's Website.
Most Wisconsin GOP lawmakers vote against debt-limit deal
The federal government reopens this morning with no help from all but one of Wisconsin's GOP lawmakers.
Reid Ribble of Sherwood was the state's only Republican to vote last night in favor of the bipartisan deal which extended the federal debt limit and avoided a first-ever default. All of the state's Democrats voted yes, including Senator Tammy Baldwin.
Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan will be a big part of the agreement he voted against. Ryan will co-chair a committee that seeks to negotiate the creation of a permanent federal budget. He'll meet with congressional budget leaders about that today.
Baldwin said she hopes to see a firm budget that boosts both the economy and the middle class.
Ryan explained his no vote by saying that Congress needed to make a down payment on the national debt and didn't. He called it a missed opportunity.
Senate Republican Ron Johnson said he couldn't support the deal. He said he wanted spending changes on entitlements -- including Obamacare -- and something to address the long-term debt.
“We are getting zero fiscal discipline," said Johnson.
Ribble said he, too, opposed parts of last night's bill, but he wants to give Congress 90 more days to set up a regular budget and "end the nonsense of continuing resolutions."
Freshman House Democrat Mark Pocan of Madison lamented the loss of public faith in the democratic process. President Obama said it's time for both sides to win back that trust.
Milwaukee student arrested for making bomb threat
Police have arrested a student for making a bomb threat yesterday at his high school in suburban Milwaukee.
About 1,100 students at Glendale Nicolet were sent home after a handwritten threat was found in a boy's bathroom and two suspicious packages were discovered on the first and second floors.
A bomb squad checked out the packages and found they were harmless.
Glendale Police Captain Mark Ferguson said the key to the arrest was that his officers remained diligent. He said school bomb threats have become so commonplace that "You try not to get complacent."
The high school building was deemed safe around 12:30, but most students were long gone by then.
Officials said some Glendale students were supposed to take PSAT tests yesterday but didn't. Classes resume today. Administrators will determine whether a make-up day will be needed later in the school year.