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Public hearings to be held on Doyle's budget; one in Eau Claire

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New Richmond, 54017
New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

The state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will start hearing from Wisconsinites later this month about the governor's proposed state budget.

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The panel will hold day-long public hearings March 23 in Sparta, March 25 in West Allis, March 27 in Eau Claire, March 30 in Racine, April 1 in Appleton, and April 3 in Cambridge.

The two-year budget includes a host of tax and fee increases, economic stimulus money and numerous policy changes.

They're designed to cover a shortfall in revenues that grew to $5.9 billion the day after Doyle submitted his package Feb. 17.

Among the most controversial items are a statewide public indoor smoking ban, early releases of non-violent felons from prison, a registration system for domestic partners to get benefits, and the ending of a safeguard which avoids wasteful spending in state contracts.

The budget produced a couple of new controversies just this week.

It was revealed that funding for stop-smoking programs would drop, even as the cigarette tax goes up 75 cents a pack.

Proposed cuts in the numbers of tax auditors were questioned, after it was learned that overdue state taxes exceeded $1 billion for the first time.

And on Mark Belling's Milwaukee radio talk show Wednesday, Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, slammed a budget proposal to unionize home care workers, saying the added costs would drive more seniors into nursing homes.

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