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Democrats take control of state Legislature today

Wisconsin legislators will be sworn in today, as Democrats take control of both houses for the first time in 14 years. The same party also has the governor's office.

For the first time in 22 years, one party has control of both the legislative and executive branches. That means Democrats can get virtually anything they want - anything they can afford, that is.

The next state budget is expected to have a deficit of $5.4 billion.

But Senate President Pro Tem Pat Kreitlow, D-Chippewa Falls, says the figure could get smaller by the end of January. He says new revenue forecasts, smaller agency budgets, and possible help from Washington could drive down the deficit.

But Kreitlow says it still won't be easy to fix, as Wisconsin muddles through the nation's worst economic times since the Great Depression.

As it stands now, Wisconsin's budget has a 17 percent funding gap, one of the largest in the nation.

In about a month, Gov. Jim Doyle will give lawmakers his proposals for closing that gap.

In the meantime, lawmakers will be busy will a host of other issues. There are several proposals to clamp down on drunken driving.

Also, Senate President Fred Risser, D-Madison, said last fall that there could be an early effort to ram through a statewide public indoor smoking ban.