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Wisconsin roundup: St. Croix River Crossing poised for traffic; more state news stories

St. Croix River Crossing. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Transportation

HOULTON — After more than 50 years of political and environmental debates, a new bridge will open Wednesday across the St. Croix River north of Hudson.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will be among the political dignitaries on hand for a 10 a.m. ceremony to open the four lane bridge just south of Stillwater where an 86-year-old lift bridge will close to motor vehicles but will remain as a bicycle and walking path.

Folks in Stillwater will celebrate the event Wednesday evening as it marks the end of long parades of traffic through their city twice each weekday as northwest Wisconsin commuters head to and from their jobs in Minnesota's Twin Cities. The debates about the project ended several years ago when Congress and former President Barack Obama approved an exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which allowed the new bridge to be built.

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Senate leader wants state budget now, then Foxconn

MADISON — The Wisconsin Senate majority leader says lawmakers should pass an overdue state budget instead of hurrying to give record tax breaks to Foxconn.

Scott Fitzgerald says his Republican colleagues want to know more about the effects of the proposed $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn's new LCD screen plant in southeast Wisconsin — and they're waiting for an analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that's due out later this month. An Assembly panel plans a public hearing Thursday on the Foxconn incentives, with a committee vote next week and a vote by the full lower house in mid August. Fitzgerald says the focus now should be on getting school and highway funding set and pass a budget that was supposed to take effect July 1.

Gov. Scott Walker says a few weeks of debate on Foxconn is a "pretty good amount of time" — and he's open to what he calls "small changes" while letting the state "pay for growth" by granting incentives as Foxconn meets certain job targets.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the proposal would also make state taxpayers pay Foxconn for 40 percent of the still undisclosed local costs for amenities like streets, if the administration secretary pre-approves those expenses. Jobs committee chairman Adam Neylon says his panel could vote on the package as early as next Thursday, with Assembly action later in the month.

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Appeal court upholds federal protections for state wolves

WASHINGTON — The federal government will continue to protect Wisconsin's nearly 1,000 gray wolves.

That's after a ruling Tuesday in which a federal appeals court said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted prematurely in removing wolves from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan from the endangered species list. All three states reintroduced the animal the last few decades, and they now total about 3,800 — but animal rights' groups say wolves are still missing from 90 percent of their historic ranges, and the appellate ruling showed that "we can't ignore the loss."

The court sided with a district judge who ended Wisconsin's management program that included a popular wolf hunt — and the ruling stopped farmers from killing wolves that damage their livestock and farm crops. House Republican Sean Duffy of Wausau asked the Trump White House to appeal Tuesday's decision.

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Wis. bankruptcies lowest in 10 years

Wisconsin bankruptcy filings are at their lowest in ten years.

More than 8,900 bankruptcy petitions were submitted to Wisconsin's federal courts from January through June — the lowest since 2007, when 7,600 people went bankrupt shortly before the Great Recession began. Filings are also down by 1.5 percent from this time last year, when almost 9,100 people and businesses claimed insolvency — and the decrease comes at a time when bankruptcies rose nationally by 0.2 percent.

With the economy improving, Milwaukee bankruptcy lawyer James Miller says it's no surprise that more cases involve credit card debt. Most Wisconsin bankruptcy filings are normally the Chapter Seven type that wipes out things like credit card balances and medical bills.

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Two crashes, 1 fatal on interstate near Fond du Lac

FOND DU LAC — An 80-year-old Antigo man has died in the second of two traffic mishaps on Interstate 41 near Fond du Lac.

The State Patrol says the first accident caused traffic backups in the northbound lanes — and while a truck was slowing down a car did not stop in time and rear ended the truck. The car driver died, and two passengers in the truck were hurt but not hospitalized. Nobody was sent to a hospital from the first crash in which a semi-trailer and an SUV collided Tuesday. The name of the elderly motorist who died was not immediately released.

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Deputies: Teen tried to stop officers from chasing other suspects

Sheriff's deputies in south central Wisconsin say a teenager rammed into a squad car to stop officers from chasing two other females on Tuesday.

All three were arrested a short time later as a 17-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl, and a 21-year-old woman — all from Milwaukee — were wanted for theft incidents in the Wisconsin Dells area. Columbia County officials say deputies and state troopers used an onboard tracking service to stop a stolen car at the Interstate 39-90-94 exit near Lodi — and the two females fled from the auto while it was still moving.

Deputies said they were just leaving their squad when the boy rammed his stolen auto into the sheriff's unit, picked up the 21-year-old, and drove south into Dane County where they left at the Highway 51 exit near Madison and slammed into another vehicle. The boy and the woman were treated at a hospital for minor injuries and arrested — and the girl was later apprehended in a cornfield.

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