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Friday Wisconsin state news roundup

GOP leaders criticize Walker's road funding approach

Madison -- At least two Republican legislative leaders say they'll keep looking for acceptable revenue increases to improve Wisconsin highways. That's after Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he would not raise transportation taxes or fees without corresponding budget cuts elsewhere. Walker also told reporters he would not repeat his 2015 proposal to borrow a record $1.3 billion to avoid tax hikes -- something his fellow Republicans in the Legislature criticized as they reduced the bonding to $850 million through the middle of next year. Assembly GOP Majority Leader Jim Steineke says Walker's plan is "unsustainable," noting that road projects would continue to be delayed, and the economy could suffer. GOP finance chair John Nygren says there's still a big interest among his colleagues to find more money for highways.

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Almost one-third of State Assembly members unopposed

Madison -- Almost one of every three Wisconsin Assembly members will not have to campaign to keep their jobs. Thirty-two of the 99 incumbents are unopposed in this fall's elections. The unopposed lawmakers are about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. There are no signs the Assembly will lose its Republican majority, which is now 60 to 39. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha is among the unopposed after the deadline to file nomination papers. Nine Assembly members are leaving, including Big Bend Republican David Craig who's unopposed for an open Senate seat -- and Milwaukee incumbent LaTonya Johnson, who's in a Senate primary in August.

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Report: Marine called Kind, police before dying at Tomah VA

La Crosse -- A Marine who died from a mix of medications at the Tomah VA Medical Center called Congressman Ron Kind, the FBI, and other law enforcement in the year before he died. The La Crosse Tribune says phone records were a part of the U.S. Senate's investigation into the over-prescription of drugs at Tomah -- where Stevens Point Marine Jason Simcakoski died last August from a mix of more than one dozen medications. The Senate's probe found that drug use was a concern at Tomah for 10 years before the matter was made public 17 months ago. Senate investigators say they had no idea what was said in Simcakoski's phone calls. Kind's office says that if the Marine asked for help, it would have started a case file -- and had he provided information about the Tomah drug problems, Kind would have sent it to the VA's inspector general, which he did with an anonymous letter five years ago about the Tomah facility.

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Ryan says he received nothing from Trump for endorsing him

Washington, D.C. -- House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville says Donald Trump did not offer a thing in exchange for the speaker's endorsement. Ryan wrote in his hometown Janesville Gazette Thursday that he still has differences with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee -- but the two agree more than disagree on an agenda that House Republicans have been working on to unify their party and the nation. They're expected to start unveiling that agenda next week. Ryan made waves last month when he said he was not ready to support Trump -- but they've had a number of talks since then, and Ryan says he's now confident that Trump will help improve people's lives with the idea in the GOP's agenda. Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz slammed what she called Ryan's "tepid, half-hearted endorsement."

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Alleged gang member ordered to stand trial for Manitowoc murder

Manitowoc -- A reported gang member from Minnesota is scheduled to enter a plea next Thursday to allegations that he killed a man in Manitowoc. Twenty-two year old Quinn Orn Smith of St. Paul has been ordered to stand trial on a charge of first degree intentional homicide in theFeb. 5 shooting death of 52-year-old Kor Yang. At Smith's preliminary hearing, a Manitowoc police detective confirmed previous reports that his DNA was found on a gun located one half block from the shooting scene. Investigators continue to look for a second suspect in the murder, 25-year-old Joe Vang. He's also said to be in the Twin Cities based Asian Crips gang, along with Smith.

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Deputies change blame for crash that killed 4

Elkhorn -- Walworth County sheriff's deputies now blame a different vehicle for last weekend's crash that killed four people. After an investigation, officials said Thursday that 67-year-old Carol Terry of Rockford, Ill. caused the three-vehicle crash by running through a stop sign at an intersection near Sharon. Officials first said that 26-year-old Carlos Venegas of Delavan drove his pickup truck through the stop sign, colliding with a semi truck before Terry's SUV slammed into the wreckage. Venegas, his wife Maria, and their 2-year-old son Carlos Junior were killed along with Terry. Her 68-year-old husband remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday.

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Long awaited master plan proposed for lower Wisconsin River

Madison -- The state DNR is finalizing its first master plan in almost 30 years for the lower Wisconsin Riverway in the southwest part of the state. The 92-mile scenic riverway was formed in 1989 to protect the free flowing river from logging and other development between Prairie du Sac and the Mississippi River. The latest plan includes more hiking and camping facilities, better boat landings and a shooting range that conservation groups want removed. They also want the state to buy more land to ward off farm pollution -- but DNR officials say that's not in the cards while the agency is under state orders to sell some of its nature lands to reduce debt. Matt Krueger of the River Alliance of Wisconsin says the new master plan will run for at least 15 years -- and if the current administration will not buy extra land, future ones might.

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Holmen police identify driver In fatal classic car crash

Holmen -- A driver killed in a high speed crash with his 1934 Chevrolet Roadster has been identified as Robert Thiele of Holmen. Police in Holmen say Thiele was either racing the classic car with another driver -- or there was some type of road rage -- and they weaved in and out of traffic before the Roadster veered into a median, overturned several times and hit an oncoming unit from the other way. It happened Wednesdayafternoon on Highway 53 in Holmen. Thiele was ejected, and two people in the oncoming vehicle had minor injuries and were not hospitalized.

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Study: Madison among the best areas for "staycations"

Washington, DC -- A new study shows that Madison is one of the nation's best places to take a vacation without going anywhere. The Washington finance website Wallet Hub says Madison is the 24th best place to take a "staycation" among the nation's 150 largest cities. That's based on 28 factors which involve recreation, relaxation, dining and entertainment. Milwaukee is ranked 85th, and was listed as one of the worst big cities to relax in -- but folks in western Wisconsin have it much better, as the nearby Twin Cities are ranked eighth for staycations. The Triple "A" says two thirds of Americans are not going beyond 50 miles for their vacations this summer -- and the "Project Time Off" website says one third of workers cannot afford to use their vacation time.

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U.S. Labor Secretary touts state apprenticeship programs

Milwaukee – U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez says Wisconsin apprenticeship programs will get an extra $200,000 in federal grants. He announced the funding during a visit to Milwaukee Area Technical CollegeThursday. Perez told students that work apprenticeships are "the other college, except without the debt." The new grants are designed to expand worker apprenticeships, and increase diversity among the participants. The federal government's top labor official appeared in Milwaukee in advance of a speech to the state Democratic Convention that beginsFriday in Green Bay.

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State extends nominating deadline for Barnes' Assembly seat

Madison -- There's still time for more candidates to file for the Wisconsin Assembly seat given up by Milwaukee Democrat Mandela Barnes. He said a few weeks ago he's running for the state Senate this fall against incumbent Democrat Lena Taylor. But the state elections' agency says Barnes never filed a required declaration of non candidacy for his Assembly post -- so the deadline for nomination papers is extended until 5 p.m. on Monday. Two other Democrats ran for Barnes' seat, but only Darrol Gibson of Milwaukee filed enough signatures by the initial deadline of Wednesday. Also, Waupaca County District Attorney John Snider did not file for reelection and never officially declared that he wouldn't run -- so the state extended the filing deadline for that post until Monday, with Veronica Isherwood as the only candidate for now.

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Wind turbine maker gets huge contract

Cicero, Ill. -- A maker of high tech windmills will keep its Wisconsin employees very busy during the next three years. Broadwind Energy of suburban Chicago said Thursday that it signed a $137 million deal to make wind energy turbines at its plants in Manitowoc and Abilene, Texas. Broadwind would not name the customer, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that General Electric and Siemens have been listed as "key customers" for Broadwind and its 300 Manitowoc employees. CEO Stephanie Kushner says the new contract extends her company's backlog through 2019, and they're happy to have it. She says the market for wind turbines has improved since Congress extended federal tax credits last year for wind energy during a five-year period.

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Wisconsin 1 of 24 states to win land fight over Minnesota wetlands

Madison -- Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says the state won in a land fight between a Minnesota mining company and the federal government. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government overstepped its bounds in ruling against the mining company. Wisconsin and 23 other states sued. Schimel says states should regulate their wetlands, not regulators in Washington, D.C.

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