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Walker to unveil two-year budget plan; Turtle Lake plant will convert wastewater to electricity; More state briefs

Gov. Scott Walker will submit his budget proposals for the next two years today when he talks about the highlights in a speech to the Legislature tonight at 7 p.m.

The governor has already unveiled many of his major initiatives, and some will be very controversial as the Legislature considers amendments to the governor's package through the end of June.

Democrats want some of a proposed 2% income tax cut to go to education instead.

Health care advocacy groups got nervous after Walker rejected an increase in federal Medicaid funds. He decided instead to place recipients above the poverty level into the new federal insurance purchasing exchanges where coverage can be had for as low as $19 a month.

Walker also made waves by proposing an expansion of private school vouchers for low-income students in nine more Wisconsin school districts including Madison and Green Bay and to put more special needs children in private schools. Some of Walker's own senators rejected the school choice package, saying people in the affected communities should agree to it first.

The governor also proposed an extra $500 million for transportation with a faster payback for borrowing by selling off state-owned power and heating plants.

Walker also wants an extra $100 million for various efforts to boost the state's workforce. He also proposed more funding for cancer treatment.

And yesterday, Walker proposed $43 million for veterans services that include an expanded property tax credit and an extra $5 million for the Veterans Trust Fund.


Turtle Lake plant will convert wastewater to electricity

One of the country's largest plants to convert wastewater into electricity is expected to open this summer in northwest Wisconsin.

GreenWhey Energy says it has secured financing to build a $28.5 million anaerobic digester in Turtle Lake.

The plant plans to use 500,000 gallons of wastewater from area food plants to produce methane gas, and the gas will provide power to generators that will make 3.2 megawatts of electricity. That's enough to provide power to over 3,000 homes. The facility will also produce heat and fertilizer.

The food plant wastewater is currently being spread over rural land. Project officials say it will help food processors reduce their costs of getting rid of wastewater, eliminate odors caused by spreading and prevent phosphorus from going into lakes and streams.

Laurie Tarman, head of the Turtle Lake Village Board, said the project will allow more food production without taxing the wastewater facilities. The new digester is expected to create 50 to 70 construction jobs and 13 permanent operating jobs once it opens.


Senate takes up amendment to protect highway fund

Wisconsin lawmakers are expected to give their final approval today to a constitutional amendment that prevents the transportation fund from being raided for other things.

Both houses approved the measure in the last session, and the Assembly gave its second approval last week on an 82-13 vote.

If the Senate passes the amendment, it will go to the voters for final ratification in November 2014.

Republicans proposed the measure after former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle used $1.3 billion in gas taxes and Department of Transportation user fees to prop up public schools and other programs.

Critics say the state's other designated funds should be protected in the same way as the transportation fund. One Democrat says it's "ridiculous" to prevent raids from one fund and not others.


Money played limited part in court primary

Money was not a huge factor in Tuesday's Wisconsin Supreme Court primary, and it remains to be seen whether that will change for the general election.

Challenger Ed Fallone said he hopes it won't.

Special interest groups have pumped millions into a few recent Supreme Court contests. Fallone, a professor at Marquette, said people "don't want to see an election that is bought and paid for."

Roggensack and Fallone advanced to the April ballot while attorney Vince Megna was eliminated in the primary.

Roggensack raised a modest $250,000 for her primary bid, enough to buy a TV ad before the primary. The conservative Club for Growth also bought an ad which highlighted Roggensack's main campaign theme - that she has 17 years of experience as a judge, and numerous judges, prosecutors, and sheriffs have endorsed her.

Fallone only raised about a third of what Roggensack did, but he managed to get on TV as well. He said he would continue to highlight the Supreme Court's dysfunction and internal bickering of recent years and promote himself as a vehicle for settling things down.

Roggensack says things are getting better, and she shouldn't have to lose her job because of what other justices have done - namely the 2011 physical spat between David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley.


Prospective Farm Tech Days host dies

Funeral services will be held today in Sun Prairie for a farmer who was planning to host Wisconsin's Farm Technology Days.

Just nine days ago it was announced that Statz Brothers Farms would host the state's largest annual farm show in 2015. Four days later, Donnie Statz, 74, died unexpectedly, after having a minor medical procedure.

He farmed with his brother Richard and their sons at a 2,000-cow Holstein operation. They also raise corn, soybeans, forage and small grains.

Dane County is hosting the 2015 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, and the Statz farm will be the site for the three-day show starting Aug. 25 of that year.


DNR asks for help controlling CWD

The state Department of Natural Resources is asking people in central Wisconsin to help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease in the area's wild deer herd.

About 40 people went to a meeting last night at the Mead Wildlife Area near Milladore after a roaming deer was found to have the fatal brain disease for the first time in the region.

DNR wildlife supervisor Kris Johansen said CWD will spread in central Wisconsin if nothing's done about it. The agency expects to have a more definitive plan in the coming months.

For now, Johansen asked people to help the DNR find deer with symptoms of the disease. Symptoms include excess saliva, an emaciated appearance and an inability to stand.

Officials said this fall's deer hunting seasons will not have any changes, but there would be no guarantees for future years if CWD spreads. Officials have tried to keep chronic wasting disease under control in southern Wisconsin for over a decade with things like extra hunting seasons and bans on deer baiting and feeding, which have proven to be controversial.

The DNR says five cases of CWD have been confirmed this year outside the southern Wisconsin zone. In the zone's core area, just over one of every five adult bucks has been infected.


Inquest jury considers charges against three police officers

An inquest jury could decide today whether three Milwaukee police officers should be charged with criminal misdemeanors for letting Derek Williams die in their custody.

More than a week of testimony ended Tuesday, and special prosecutor John Franke will give jurors a closing statement this morning before they begin to deliberate.

Franke said felony charges are not appropriate, due to the nature of the evidence presented.

Instead, jurors will consider whether to support possible misdemeanor counts against three officers for not rendering aid. Those three are Richard Ticcioni, who restrained Williams, and Jeffrey Cline and Jason Bleichwehl, who were in a squad car where Williams collapsed after complaining that he couldn't breathe.

The incident happened in 2011, and a newly released video last year showed the 22-year-old Williams gasping for air before collapsing. He was wanted for a street robbery and ran away for a block and a half before he was caught.

Franke said there's not enough evidence to prove that Williams' confinement, or a late request for medical help, were substantial factors in the suspect's death.


LaCrosse student died of hypothermia

A UW-La Crosse student found dead in a ditch last weekend died from hypothermia and had a preliminary blood alcohol level of .21, according to an autopsy performed in Madison on Neala Frye, 23.

She was missing since Saturday night. Her body was found the next evening just north of La Crosse in Onalaska.

Police say they do not suspect foul play, but they've asked the State Justice Department to help with an investigation that continues.

Officers are still waiting for the results of toxicology tests, which are due back in several weeks.

Frye was last seen at a bar where she and another woman were planning out a promotional event for a massage and tanning studio. When she failed to show up for work Sunday morning, friends and relatives began searching for her.

Officials said her body was found about 100 yards from a railroad track where some of her credit cards had been dropped.


Adams County deputy shot, wounded

A sheriff's deputy in central Wisconsin and another man were both shot and wounded Tuesday evening.

Adams County sheriff's deputies said they and officers from the town of Rome were called just after 7:30 p.m. to a report of suspicious activity in the town of Big Flats.

Officers entered a residence and shots were fired. Both a deputy and a male in the building were wounded. Other details, including the victims' names or their conditions, were not immediately released.

Officials said there's no danger to the public as a result of the incident. An investigation continues.


Madison man gets prison term for possessing heroin valued at $11,000

A Madison area man was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison after he was caught driving with $11,000 worth of heroin on a freeway near La Crosse.

Equon Hopkins, 32, of Fitchburg must also spend seven years under extended supervision when he gets out. And he must get mental health treatment for what La Crosse County Circuit Judge Elliott Levine called "intensive" issues.

A sheriff's deputy stopped Hopkins' car in July 2011 for a faulty taillight and a damaged license plate. The officer found heroin and marijuana in the vehicle.

A passenger told the deputy that Hopkins wanted her to hide the evidence in her body before he stopped the car.

Hopkins pleaded guilty to possessing heroin with the intent to deliver. A second drug charge was dropped in a plea deal.