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Wisconsin roundup: Legislative leaders to meet with Walker again on budget; 8 more state news stories

Republican state legislative leaders are expected to meet again Wednesday, July 19, with Gov. Scott Walker, but it remains to be seen whether they can agree on a new state budget that's 19 days overdue. File photo

MADISON — Republican state legislative leaders are expected to meet again Wednesday with Gov. Scott Walker, but it remains to be seen whether they can agree on a new state budget that's 19 days overdue.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans announced what they would accept — and that includes $712 million in borrowing for highway projects, half to be paid back by general state tax revenues for the first time. The Senate GOP also wants to end the state's alternative minimum tax for higher incomes and the personal property tax on business equipment — and to pay for that, the Senate would drop the Republican Walker's plans to cut income taxes by $203 million, expand the earned income credit for the working poor, and adopt a sales tax holiday on back to school purchases in August.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who opposes any more highway borrowing, says his Republicans will give the Senate package "fair consideration." In the meantime, state spending continues at levels from the last budget.

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Wisconsin drops in national ranking of girls’ well being

NEW YORK — The Girl Scouts of America ranks Wisconsin as the 16th best state for girls' well being, and that's down from nine years ago when the state was in the Top 10.

Growing obesity was a big concern in the national survey — and in Wisconsin, 25 percent of ten-to-17-year-old girls were overweight or obese in 2012, 2 percent more than five years earlier. Seventeen-percent of girls age 5 to 17 were living in poverty as of 2014, 3 percent more than two years before.

About six of every 10 girls are proficient in reading and math, both down by about 5 percent from seven years earlier — although dropout rates for girls went down. The Girl Scout survey also found that one of every five Wisconsin girls spend more than three hours a day watching TV and playing video games, and about 15 percent do not take part in community service or organized school activities.

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First public school for teens battling addiction to open in Wis.

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Monday that will create the state's first public recovery high school for teenagers who are battling addiction.

Television station WKOW reports that the new Recovery High School would be a public charter school solely for teens battling addiction. It would be a four-year pilot program that will be led by the UW-System.

It will offer both classes and therapy and would be funded by taxpayers. There is currently one, private high school in the state for teens who are battling addiction. It's the Horizon High School in Madison.

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Union: Harley to cut 180 jobs

MILWAUKEE — Union officials say Milwaukee's Harley Davidson will cut about 180 jobs this fall, and the motorcycle engine plant at Menomonee Falls will be among those most affected.

The United Steelworkers Union says a bike assembly plant in Kansas City will also be hard hit — and beside the job cuts, temporary furloughs are also expected. Union sub district director Ross Winklbauer says his members "did not see this coming." Harley announced Tuesday it would reduce its workforce in the wake of a nine-point-three percent decline in motorcycle sales in the second quarter of this year, compared to one year ago.

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Appeals court upholds former state official’s securities conviction

WAUSAU — A state appeals court has upheld a conviction against a former state official for securities related crimes when he ran a mortgage company in Eau Claire.

John Torgerson is serving a four year prison term after he was found guilty in 2014 on 23 charges of securities fraud and 24 counts of selling securities that were not registered. The 66-year-old Torgerson says there was not enough evidence to support his convictions, and he challenged an order to pay 440-thousand dollars in restitution — but the Third District Appellate Court in Wausau ruled Tuesday that his violations were a major factor in the investors' losses.

When he filed for bankruptcy in 2010, court records showed that he and his Preferred Mortgage business owed almost ten-million dollars to about 100 people — and part of the state's accusations was that he did not tell investors about his company's financial losses. Torgerson was a deputy secretary of revenue, insurance, banking, and health for former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

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Wis. native grilled at U.S. Senate confirmation hearing

WASHINGTON — A Wisconsin native is grilled by a U.S. Senate panel at her confirmation hearing as the new ambassador to the Vatican.

Members of the Foreign Relations Committee wanted to know how Whitehall's Callista Gingrich would deal with climate change and refugee policies — two areas of recent disagreement between Pope Francis and President Donald Trump. Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said the United States would either return to the Paris climate accord or set a whole new policy that's "fair to Americans."

That's after Trump said the current accord places "draconian" financial burdens on the United States. Gingrich was also asked about a report that the Trump administration reached its quota for the year of 50,000 refugees — and she vowed to tell the Vatican that America still has a commitment to those "most in need."

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Police: Sex suspect beats officers while trying to flee

APPLETON — A man suspected of sexual assault is now accused of attacking two police officers while they were questioning him.

Appleton Police say 34-year-old Kevin VerHoeven surprised the officers, because he voluntarily showed up for the questioning. Police say they were interviewing VerHoeven on Tuesday about the apparent sexual assault of a woman with a mental illness in May at the man's house — and when they told him he was being arrested, VerHoeven reportedly tried fleeing and then punched the two officers.

Other police helped subdue him and sent him to jail, while the two officers were checked out at a hospital and later returned to duty. Police booked VerHoeven on possible charges of second degree sexual assault of a mentally ill victim, two counts of battery to officers, and resisting arrest.

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One killed, 2 injured in Amish buggy, SUV crash

VESPER — The Wood County Sheriff's Department says one person has died and two others have been injured in a collision between an Amish buggy and an SUV.

Investigators say the horse-drawn buggy was crossing Highway 73 near the village of Vesper Monday night when it was struck by the SUV. Both people in the buggy were thrown out.

Television station WSAW reports that a buggy passenger died at the scene. The buggy's driver was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield. The SUV driver was taken by ambulance to the same hospital. The names of the victims were not released. The crash closed the highway for about four hours.

A similar incident occurred last month in rural St. Croix County after an SUV struck an Amish buggy carrying three teens who were injured in the crash.

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Ryan: Senate should pass ‘something’ on health care

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville says he still wants a health care package that both repeals and replaces Obamacare.

But the replacement does not have enough votes from majority Republicans to pass the Senate. Ryan said Tuesday the Senate should pass what it can, and let a joint conference committee hammer out the final version. In May, the House barely passed a bill to replace parts of former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, eliminating taxes for various groups and ending Medicaid expansions that helped millions get covered. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday night that the Senate would vote soon merely to repeal Obamacare within two years.

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