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Counties scheme to get Medicaid funds; Walker likens himself to FDR with sweeping reforms; plus 9 more state stories

Twenty Wisconsin counties are trying a new approach to get extra federal Medicaid funds under the Affordable Care Act.

La Crosse County is among those trying to tip-toe around Gov. Scott Walker’s refusal to accept additional Medicaid dollars statewide for recipients of programs like Badger-Care.

La Crosse County Supervisor Monica Kruse said her county and the other 19 have asked State Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades to pursue something recently done in Ohio. There, Republican lawmakers rejected Obama-care’s additional Medicaid funds. Still, a demonstration project was arranged in which the extra funding passes through the state of Ohio to the county with Cleveland in it, where a medical center serves low-income residents.

The Wisconsin Citizen Action Group planned a telephone news conference Tuesday to promote the same idea for the Badger State.

The new state budget gives Badger-Care only to those under the poverty line – and the rest would buy coverage under the federal government’s new insurance purchasing exchange.

Kruse tells the La Crosse Tribune that the Walker plan will remove 35,000 people from Badger-Care in La Crosse, Buffalo, Clark, Jackson, Monroe, Pepin, Vernon, and Trempealeau counties. She’ll participate in Citizen Action’s news conference, along with officials from Dane, Brown, and Eau Claire counties.

In March, the executives of Dane and Outagamie counties called for expanded Medicaid funds for their counties only. That was before the Ohio arrangement was made, and the state said no at that time.

Walker says Detroit should have employed an Act 10 approach

MILWAUKEE -- Gov. Scott Walker said Monday Detroit would not be bankrupt, and Chicago schools would be a lot better, if they had clamped down on public unions like he did in Wisconsin.

Walker made the remarks to those attending the annual Governmental Research Association policy conference at U-W Milwaukee Monday.

In what some observers called a possible stump speech for a 2016 presidential campaign, Walker compared himself to Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He said FDR did not see a need for public sector bargaining because “the government is the people.”

Walker said he and his fellow legislative Republicans have empowered state employees and affirmed their greatness. He said the Act 10 limits give taxpayers – and not unions – control of how their money is spent.

Walker said he would make similar remarks to the nation’s governors when they meet in Milwaukee this weekend. In answering an audience question, he said some lawmakers are now talking about extending the union bargaining limits to police- and fire personnel, which were exempted from Act 10.

The governor told reporters afterward that he would not propose such a change, but he would consider it if lawmakers sent such a bill to his desk.

Before Walker’s speech, two protestors yelled and one played a snare drum. Both were removed.

Final OK received for Stanley group to buy Oshkosh area ethanol plant

STANLEY -- Final approval has been given to the sale of a corn-based ethanol plant near Oshkosh.

Stockholders of Ace Ethanol in Stanley have agreed to buy the shuttered Utica Energy plant, which closed last fall after being $30 million in debt.

The purchase price is $16.5 million for the 60-million gallon Utica facility.

A Winnebago County judge approved Ace’s bid on July 11th. The sale was part of bankruptcy proceedings involving Renew Energy and Olsen’s Mill.

Ace Ethanol expects to re-open the Oshkosh plant this fall, and re-name it “Fox Valley Ethanol.”

Ace opened its Stanley plant in 2002, and company officials expect the Oshkosh plant to be profitable in a relatively short amount of time. Wisconsin now has nine ethanol production facilities.

New product line lifts Oshkosh Corp's business

OSHKOSH -- Wisconsin’s maker of military vehicles has found another way to make money.

The Oshkosh Corporation cites strong sales of commercial construction lifts, in reporting a quarterly profit of $148 million.

Sales were up by just over 2 percent, to $2.2 billion.

Oshkosh has been losing defense business as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been winding down. The company said its sales of aerial construction platforms, scissor lifts, and tele-handlers grew by over 15.5 percent in the last quarter. The firm said the demand was caused by higher activity from builders and leasing companies.

Oshkosh says it now expects its full-year earnings to be $3.60 to $3.70 a share, up from its previous estimate of $2.90 to $3.15.

Tool firm stiffens resolve to fight Chinese knock-offs

MUKWONAGO -- A Mukwonago company that makes measuring tools and levels says it’s doing more to go after Chinese firms which make and sell copy-cat products.

The Empire Level Manufacturing Company has been in business for 94 years. It invented the leveling tool that’s used today by builders and do-it-yourselfers.

Company president Jenni Becker said her firm has spent over a decade fighting Chinese copy-cats. It goes in spurts, and Becker says there’s been a resurgence in copyright thefts over the past two years. Empire has issued dozens of cease-and-desist letters to Chinese manufacturers – and the U.S. distributors and stores which handle the products.

She said Empire has also recovered legal fees in certain cases, but it can be hard to trace the manufacturing culprits because they operate under a variety of names. Becker said most retailers are cooperative once they learn that they’re selling counterfeit items.

Cool weather puts a crimp into growing season

SULLIVAN -- Wisconsin farmers were just getting caught up with their crops when some hit a brick wall last week.

Some of the state’s crop reporters said the corn and Hay almost stopped growing because it got so cool.

Nighttime lows reached the 40’s in parts of the Badger State, while daytime temperatures were 4- to 7 degrees below normal. The Wisconsin corn averages about 68 inches tall, a half-foot below normal for this time of year – but the height varies widely throughout the state.

The quality is good as 88 percent of the corn is rated fair- to excellent.

About half the soybeans are blooming, down from the normal two-thirds. Ninety-percent of the crop is fair-to excellent. Some farmers are still making their first crop of hay to feed their cows.

Three-quarters of the second crop is made, 10 percent below the norm. Some farmers are cutting a third hay crop.

Thorp woman killed in Hwy. 29 collision with Menomonie driver

A 91-year-old woman was killed Monday afternoon in a two-car crash at an intersection on the Highway 29 expressway in west central Wisconsin.

Clark County sheriff’s deputies said Clara Sandel of Thorp was driving south on County Trunk “O” near Withee when she drove through a stop sign, and collided with a car driven by a Evan L. Warren, 26, of Menomonie, who was traveling west along Highway 29 at the time of the crash. Evan told officers he swerved but couldn’t avoid Sandel’s vehicle.

Officials said both drivers were wearing their seat belts. The crash occurred at a graded intersection on the four-lane Highway 29 which did not have freeway-style exits. The mishap is still being investigated.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Two killed in Indiana crash had strong Wisconsin ties

Maranatha Baptist Bible College of Watertown is mourning the deaths of two former students, their unborn baby, and the mother of a former student in a bus crash last Saturday in Indianapolis.

Chad and Courtney Phelps attended Maranatha, and their father Chuck is a former president of the school. Courtney was just one month away from having her second child. Tonya Weindorf was the only other person killed. She’s the mother of a Maranatha Baptist nursing student.

On its Web site Monday, the Watertown Bible school said its prayers go out to those killed.

Thirty-three others were hurt in the bus crash, mostly teenagers. They and their chaperones almost made it home from a summer church camp in Michigan when their bus fell down an exit ramp on Interstate-465 and hit a concrete median.

The driver said the brakes failed, but police have not confirmed that it caused the crash. One of the most seriously injured was moved out of an intensive care unit Monday. Two other teens were hospitalized in good condition.

Chad Phelps was the youth pastor at Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis. Weindorf was a teacher at the Colonial Christian School. Investigators now say it could take a week or longer to determine a cause – and whether anyone’s at fault.

The Indianapolis Star says non-profit groups like churches are not required to keep vehicle inspection records, and they don’t get the same scrutiny as commercial buses.

For now, the church refuses comment on the condition of its 1986 vehicle, which it acquired 11 years ago.

-- WBEV-WXRO, Beaver Dam

Walker's campaign staff accused of parsing information about 2010 accident

Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign staff helped coordinate the release of information about the 2010 Milwaukee parking ramp accident that killed a teenager. That’s according to newly-released e-mails stemming from a lawsuit by the victim’s family.

A 15-year-old boy was on his way to Summerfest when he was leaving the O’Donnell Park ramp, and an exterior concrete panel fell onto him from the second story. Milwaukee County owns the ramp, and Walker was the county executive who was running for governor at the time.

According to the new e-mails, county Walker aide Cindy Archer was concerned that the executive’s office might be responding too quickly to requests for information about the incident from political opponents. The State Democratic Party and Walker’s GOP primary opponent had asked for the records.

One draft statement quoted Walker as saying, “It is disgusting that anyone would use a tragedy for such blatant political purposes.”

Archer said she was told by Walker’s campaign manager that the governor’s general election opponent – Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett – waited three months before acknowledging requests for public records.

Former Walker aide Tim Russell speculated that a car might have pushed the concrete slab to the ground. The company that built the slab is using that theory as a key defense point in its lawsuit.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.