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Wisconsin roundup: Vinehout still considering gubernatorial run; Walker open to using general tax revenues for roads; 9 more state news stories

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout

MADISON — State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout says she's still considering a possible run for governor next year.

The Democrat from Alma told Wisconsin Public Radio that Republican Scott Walker is apparently trying to create the image that Democrats can't beat him in 2018 — but Vinehout says her party is "more motivated" than she's seen in a "very, very long time." Vinehout, whose Senate district includes Pierce and Pepin counties, has run for governor before, but her first bid ended in 2014 when she was seriously hurt in a traffic crash.

Other high profile Democrats have shied away from a possible run against Walker next year, but some others are still looking at it — and Bob Harlow is the only Democrat to formally announce a bid so far. Walker has indicated that he'll seek a third term, but he won't announce a bid until after the state budget is finalized this summer.

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Walker open to using general tax revenues for roads

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker now says he's talking with GOP legislative leaders on something that's been a political "no-no" for years — using general tax revenues for road work.

The Republican Walker brought up that possibility Monday, after clarifying that he has no interest in raising vehicle registration fees to help make up for a shortfall in the state's highway budget. A media report last week said Walker was "open" to higher license plate fees — but he said he was "explicitly" talking about the gas tax at that time.

Walker says he has told GOP leaders "repeatedly" that there are ways to free up more money for roads, and general revenues are among them. Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton says using general fund dollars would take away money from schools and safety net programs.

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Home sales have best first quarter since at least 2005

MADISON — Wisconsin Realtors report their biggest home sales since at least 2005 for the first quarter of this year.

The Realtors Association says its members sold almost 13,400 existing houses from January through March, a3.2 percent increase from the same time last year. The figure was largest for the year's first quarter since the association recalibrated its method for keeping track of home sales in 2005.

Realtors' board Chairman Erik Sjowall says the increase comes despite tight inventories for existing homes — and the median selling price was almost $160,000, up 6.4 percent from last year. For March, about 5,900 homes were sold statewide, about 400 more than the year before.

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Walker draws supporters, protesters to Omaha mayor's campaign event

OMAHA, Neb. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker attracted both supporters and protesters to a campaign rally for Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

The Republican Walker told about 250 people Monday that Stothert shows "Midwest common sense" with her property tax cuts and moves that added police officers. The Omaha World Herald says about 100 union members were told at their own rally that neither Walker nor Stothert share their values — and about 100 others joined them to protest outside the mayor's event.

Stothert, who's completing her first four year term, says she and Walker are a lot alike, and her opponent Heath Mello would raise people's taxes to get "more government." Mello brought in 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders last week, and he says Walker's record should "concern" Omaha's working families.

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Ice storm brewing in northwestern Wis.?

An ice storm appears to be brewing in far northwest Wisconsin.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch from this evening through Thursday morning for Douglas and Bayfield counties, plus much of northeast Minnesota.

Forecasters say the Superior and Bayfield areas will start getting rain or freezing rain Tuesday — and the region can expect up to one-quarter inch of ice, as much as one inch of snow, and wind gusts of up to 30. The remainder of Wisconsin can expect rain and thunderstorms on and off for the rest of the week. The Weather Service in Milwaukee says minor flooding is possible in southern Wisconsin, as some rivers may get above their flood stages.

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Senators ask new ag chief to help resolve trade dispute

WASHINGTON — Both of Wisconsin's United States senators want the nation's new agriculture secretary to act quickly to help resolve the milk trade dispute with Canada.

Democrat Tammy Baldwin says Sonny Perdue should visit Wisconsin to see what dairy farmers are going through. And she wants Perdue and the Trump administration to convince Canadian provinces to drop new pricing policies, and take American milk again to process ultra filtered milk for cheese. Baldwin and Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson both voted to confirm Perdue Monday as President Donald Trump's new agricultural chief. Johnson also wants "swift action" from the administration, after dozens of Wisconsin farmers lost buyers for their milk after Canadian processors cut off American purchases.

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Motorcyclist killed in Walworth County crash

ELKHORN — Sheriff's investigators say high speed is an apparent factor in a motorcycle crash that killed a Delavan man.

Walworth County deputies say 32-year-old Joshua Faber drove through a stop sign on a rural road near Elkhorn — and his motorcycle veered into a ditch before slamming into a tree. Faber died at the scene of the mishap, which happened late Monday morning in the town of Sugar Creek. An investigation continues.

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Democrats form gun safety coalition

MADISON — State Assembly Democrats are starting a new coalition to push for gun safety, as majority Republicans seek to loosen requirements to carry concealed weapons.

Madison Democrats Melissa Sargent, Lisa Subeck, and Terese Berceau met with reporters Monday to unveil the "Wisconsin Coalition for Gun Safety." The advocacy group is made up of doctors, social workers, and clergy members.

Television station WISC says it comes two months after Berceau introduced a bill to require universal background checks for all gun purchases. The GOP, meanwhile, has called for letting people carry concealed weapons without state permits and to allow concealed carry on public school property.

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Measure would allow homemade baked goods sales in state

MADISON — A proposal is being circulated in the Wisconsin Senate that would allow the sale of homemade baked goods in the state.

Wisconsin and New Jersey are the only states that prohibit the for-profit sale of baked goods made in a home kitchen. There is a pending lawsuit filed by home backers in Wisconsin challenging the law. Similar bills have passed the state Senate with bipartisan support the past two sessions but died in the Assembly.

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GOP consultant: Walker 'as close to bulletproof as you can get'

MADISON — Republican consultant Chris Lato says Gov. Scott Walker is about "as close to bulletproof as you can get," in assessing his re-election chances for 2018.

Two Sunday political talk shows in Wisconsin explored the question of whether a Democrat can beat Walker in his likely bid for a third term, considering things like the state's solid economy. Some high profile Democrats have said they won't run, including Congressmen Ron Kind and Mark Pocan, state Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and former legislators Tim Cullen and Joe Parisi — and that leaves possible hopefuls such as lawmakers Kathleen Vinehout, Gordon Hintz, and Dana Wachs — businessman Andy Gronik — and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ who ran for attorney general in 2014.

On WKOW-TV's "Capital City Sunday," Parisi said there's still time for Democrats to form a positive message, and take advantage of holes left by GOP President Donald Trump. Others say a Democrat would need lots of money — something Cullen alluded to himself, when he said it might take $40 million to match what Walker spends.

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Finance panel to consider funding to fight homelessness

MADISON — Two bills to fight homelessness in Wisconsin were considered Monday by the Legislature's Joint Finance panel.

One bill would create an Interagency Council on Homelessness, and another would give grants to communities to help homeless people find jobs. The finance committee will also take up measures to expand high speed Internet service, and approve about $2 million in stewardship funds to buy 990 acres at the Lower Chippewa River Natural Areas in Dunn County.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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