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Walker asks Obama for a voice in budget negotiations; 20 new DA's take office next month; most banks show 3rd quarter profit, more state news

Wisconsin's Scott Walker has urged President Obama to give governors like him "a seat at the table" in negotiating a plan to avert the fiscal cliff.

Walker and five other governors met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday at the White House. The Republican Walker urged the president to consider the impact of the fiscal cliff on state economies - and to avert the massive federal tax hikes and spending cuts which are due to take effect automatically at the start of next year.

Walker was part of a team representing the National Governors Association, which did not push for a specific plan since its members are with both major parties. Walker said his group did not promote or dismiss a specific plan to the president but they did urge Obama to focus on things that would unite the country.

Recently, Walker told the state's largest business group that the need to reduce the national debt should do no harm to what's proving to be a shaky recovery from the Great Recession. Joe Zepecki of a group that's promoting the Democrats' negotiations says Walker should join a growing number of GOP leaders willing to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Washington, Janesville's Paul Ryan said Republicans must stop pandering to their political base, appeal to all Americans, and help the poor get out of poverty.

Ryan, a potential White House hopeful for 2016, discussed his vision last night at a dinner in Washington honoring the late Jack Kemp. Ryan used to work for Kemp, and both can lay claim to being unsuccessful vice presidential nominees.

Ryan, the House Budget chairman, said his GOP cannot write off large swaths of people, a nudge against Mitt Romney's remark that the party should forget about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes.

Ryan said the Republicans must "speak to the aspirations and the anxieties of every American."

Training underway for 20 new DA's

Starting in January, 20 of Wisconsin's 72 counties will have new chief prosecutors who will try to punish lawbreakerand the state Justice Department is working to get those new district attorneys up to speed.

Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte says his agency provides on-going training for prosecutors, and special sessions for new DA's that began right after last month's elections. Voters placed 20 new DA's into office, including Pierce County where former River Falls police officer Sean Froelich will succeed John O'Boyle.

Korte says the large number is rare, but it's a sign of the times in the legal industry. He said many prosecutors left to make more money in private practice and as a result, it's hard to keep good, experienced attorneys who are willing to work on the people's behalf.

A UW Madison study in 2011 showed that most of the 146 prosecutors surveyed planned to leave their jobs at any time, after being stuck with entry-level salaries for years.

Lawmakers tried but failed earlier this year to create 17 pay grades designed to give regular raises to prosecutors, who are state employees even though they work in county courthouses.

Wisconsin's senators split vote on disability pact

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Wisconsin's two U.S. senators were on opposing sides Tuesday, when their colleagues failed to ratify a United Nations treaty to protect the rights of those with disabilities.

Republican Ron Johnson voted against the treaty, saying it could interfere with U.S. laws. Democrat Herb Kohl was among 61 senators voting yes but it was not enough for the required two-thirds majority.

Tom Masseau of Disability Rights Wisconsin said it was disappointing that advocates could not round up enough votes to ratify the treaty. He said it previously had the support of Republicans like Bob Dole and former President George Herbert Walker Bush. The treaty was first drafted in 2006. It encourages other nations to adopt American standards for disability rights but some conservatives believe it would let U.N. violate the rights of parents with disabled children.

Most Wisconsin banks profitable in third quarter

Over 90 percent of Wisconsin banks made money in the third quarter of this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said the state's banks had a total net income of almost $263 million from July through September, 55 percent higher than the same time a year ago.

The state's largest home-owned bank - Associated of Green Bay - had the highest earnings with $52 million. Guaranty Bank, based in Brown Deer, had the biggest quarterly loss at $7.6 million.

Officials said most banks boosted their loan portfolios this summer, and they allocated less money to cover bad loans. Only 2.7 percent of bank loans were not current in the last quarter. That's down from over 3.6 percent the preceding year.

Also, more people are paying down their credit cards. The FDIC said the state's total credit card debt fell by almost 2.5 percent from a year ago.

Rose Oswald Poels of the Wisconsin Bankers Association said the recovery is not as quick as everybody would like but banks have seen a slow and steady improvement over the last few quarters.

Insurance in SW Wisconsin still high, but falling

Folks in southeast Wisconsin are still paying more for their health insurance than others in the Midwest but a new study shows that the gap has dropped considerably over the last 12 years.

Milliman consultant Keith Kieffer said hospitals in southeast Wisconsin have done a great job of controlling their expenses and as a result, the region's hospital costs grew by only half the national average during the eight years ending in 2011.

Back in 2000, people in the Milwaukee region were paying 55 percent more for their health care than others in the Midwest but now, benefit consultants from Mercer says the region is only 7 percent higher than its Midwest counterparts and that's down from 8 percent in 2010.

Pastor-school administrator plead to tax fraud

MILWAUKEE -- A pastor and private school administrator in Milwaukee has pleaded guilty to filing a false income tax return.

Gregory Goner, 41, struck a plea deal in which two other counts were dropped - stealing federal funds and wire fraud. He also agreed to pay $68,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Goner was the pastor of the Spirit Governed Baptist Church in Milwaukee and he was the president of the Excel Academy.

The school received federal grants, as well as state tax funds to educate low-income kids under the state's voucher program.

Prosecutors said Goner filed a false income tax return in 2007 when his church bought investment properties for him, covered repairs, and gave him $7,500 for his personal use. His lawyer said Goner made mistakes with his tax forms but there was no merit to the fraud and theft counts.

Domestic call leads to basement bovine discovery

BELOIT -- Police were investigating a domestic disturbance at a couple's home when they found something really strange in the basement - a malnourished calf.

A woman called police on Sunday and said her husband had beaten her. Police said the husband was upset that the calf was not being fed properly.

Both the husband and wife were cited for illegally keeping livestock in the city of Beloit. City inspectors deemed the house uninhabitable.

The calf was sent to the U-W Veterinary Hospital in Madison, and was later transferred to an animal shelter.

Join a DNR chat about cougars today

MADISON -- If you want to know more about cougars in Wisconsin, the state DNR is holding an online chat about the subject Wednesday.

Ecologist Adrian Wydeven and assistant biologist Jane Wiedenhoeft will host the chat. People can ask questions about the slow migration of cougars into the Midwest, as more of the mountain lions leave their densely-populated homes in the Western United States.

Cougars had been virtually extinct in Wisconsin since the early 1900's and the DNR has confirmed four cougars in the state over the last three years. One was killed in Chicago by police, and it's not known where the other three went.

Cougars are known to hide in wooded areas and riverbanks. They feed on turkeys, raccoons, and deer.

Wednesday's chat starts at noon on the DNR's Web site, accessible at When you get to the home page, use the search phrase "Ask the Experts."

Elderly man struck while retrieving mail

RANDOM LAKE -- A 98-year-old man died late Tuesday afternoon after being hit by a van while getting his mail outside his home near Random Lake in Sheboygan County.

Sheriff's deputies said Erhard Klug accidentally stepped into the path of a van driven by a 52-year-old Random Lake woman.

It happened about 4 p.m. on CTH HH.

Klug was taken to Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital where he died from his injuries.

Four sickened by fumes from bank vault

DARLINGTON -- Four people got sick Tuesday when they breathed fumes which came from a vault at the Citizens Bank in Darlington.

Police Chief Jason King said the fumes came from an aerosol can that was either punctured, or somehow had its contents released during the night.

When bank employees opened the vault Tuesday morning, the fumes escaped from the unventilated vault and three bank employees and a customer were taken to a Darlington hospital to be treated for respiratory ailments.

Officials said the aerosol can had a static neutralizer which is used on electronic devices.

Darlington fire crews spent about 90 minutes ventilating the building. Officers and rescuers from a number of agencies responded - including a regional haz-mat team.

Probation ordered for men, guilty of killing whooping crane

Two men from Indiana will spend three years on probation for killing an endangered whooping crane.

A federal judge also told Jason McCarter and John Burke of Knox County Indiana to donate $5,000 each to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. They'll have to perform 120 hours of community service, and they'll lose their hunting privileges for three years.

McCarter and Burke were arrested in early January, five days after they shot a crane that belonged to a nesting pair. A tip from the public led to the arrests.

The bird was similar to cranes raised in Wisconsin, which have taken part in a 12-year effort to boost the population of the tall birds in the eastern United States.