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Wisconsin roundup: Senate, Assembly remain divided as budget process stalls; Trump speaking in Waukesha; 8 more state news stories

Visitors explore the state Capitol and its grounds in Madison. Jalen Knuteson / Rivertown Multimedia

MADISON — The current state budget is scheduled to expire in three weeks, and the process for adopting a new two year package remains stalled.

As of midday Monday, the Joint Finance Committee had not scheduled any meetings on the budget, as Republican legislative leaders disagree on funds for public schools and transportation. On the TV show "Up Front With Mike Gousha," Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald still held out hope that a budget deal will be worked out before July 1 — and he said the Senate is more aligned with Gov. Scott Walker while Assembly GOP Speaker Robin Vos has said his members are not a "rubber stamp" for what the governor wants.

Fitzgerald says his GOP senators are generally in line with Walker's desires to hold property taxes in check and not raise transportation fees including the gas tax. The Senate leader said tolls could bring in billions of dollars, and they should be "part of the discussion" even though the required federal action likely won't happen this session.


Trump to discuss jobs, education in Waukesha

Donald Trump will make his second visit to Wisconsin as president late Tuesday afternoon — and he's expected to discuss the importance of jobs and education during a speech at Waukesha County Technical College.

On Monday, Republican Gov. Scott Walker told a Fond du Lac audience the state's top priority is to develop its workforce for what employers need — and Walker said Trump is the right person to talk about that. The governor says Trump promised to make Tuesday's visit back in February, when Walker rejected overtures to join the White House team. After his speech, Trump is scheduled to join Walker at a private fundraiser for the governor in the Milwaukee area, in which the lowest ticket price was reported to be $1,000.


About 216,000 Wisconsinites remain on Obamacare

WASHINGTON — Despite all the talk about getting rid of Obamacare, 216,000 Wisconsinites are still on it.

The U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services says almost 243,000 state residents had chosen plans for this year in the Affordable Care Act's federal purchasing exchange. But about 26,000 Wisconsinites who chose plans by the end of January had not paid their premiums by March 15 and never activated their coverage.

The 216,000 who did activate is about 8,000 fewer than last year — although the government says it will adjust the numbers later to reflect those who chose to start their coverage on April 1. About 83 percent of those activating their insurance received tax credits on their premiums.


Two DAs nominated as western Wisconsin's next U.S. attorney

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin's U.S. senators have asked the president to nominate one of two county prosecutors as the next U.S. attorney for the western half of the state.

Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin submitted the names of Jackson County District Attorney Gerald Fox and Waushara County DA Scott Blader to the White House on Monday. They were among the candidates considered by the senators' nominating commission to replace John Vaudreuil, who left in March after the Trump administration asked him to resign as well as other appointees from former President Barack Obama. Blader is a Republican and Fox is a Democrat, and the two senators told President Donald Trump that either would make an "outstanding U.S. attorney."


State corn planting 2 weeks later than 2016

MADISON — Wisconsin's main cash crop is being planted two weeks later than last year.

The state Ag Statistics Service says 96 percent of the corn crop is in the ground, still one day ahead of the average for the past five years. Seventy percent of the crop is rated good to excellent. Almost nine of every ten soybean acres have been planted around the state — 10 days later than 2016, but still one day ahead of the five year average.

All but 4 percent of the state's oat crop is in the ground, and 78 percent of it is rated good to excellent. The first cutting of hay is 81 percent finished, and three fourths of it remains good to excellent.


Flare-ups continue at Cambria corn mill

CAMBRIA — Small flareups continue in the rubble of the Didion corn mill in Cambria, 12 days after an explosion and fire destroyed the business.

WISC television in Madison says firefighters were called to the plant again Sunday night, amid new reports of flames and smoke from the wreckage. Columbia County sheriff's deputies say there have been a number of small fires as heat spots form, and fire crews have been monitoring them. Four employees were killed in the blast.


USDA: State maple syrup production drops

MADISON — Wisconsin's maple syrup production has fallen by 17 percent from last year.

The USDA says the Badger State made about 200,000 gallons of pure syrup this spring. That's about 35,000 gallons fewer than in 2016. The numbers of taps into the state's maple trees fell from a record 765,000 last year to 735,000 in 2017.

The average tap also produced about 0.03 of one gallon less, to about 0.27. Wisconsin's maple syrup season began one day earlier than normal, on Feb. 6. It ended April 30th. The state is the nation's fourth largest maple syrup producer behind national leader Vermont, New York and Maine.

Fatal storm victim ID'd

A 46-year-old man killed during Sunday's storm damage in northwest Wisconsin has been identified as Donald Hajek of Chetek.

Police say a tree rolled from a shed onto Hajek, as he and his 14-year-old son were cutting parts of the tree off their backyard shed where it landed earlier. Chetek fire crews and the victim's family tried saving him — but he died at the scene.


Jury sides with Germantown schools in retirees' benefit withdrawal

WEST BEND — A jury in Washington County says the Germantown School District did nothing illegal when it ended long-term care insurance payments for 90 retired teachers.

An attorney for the retirees said their benefits were vested, claiming that a political power play in the wake of the Act 10 union restrictions resulted in the schools' payments ending in 2012. A Germantown school attorney told the jury that the retired teachers ignored a warning that the district's funding for the insurance would end. The retirees were given a chance to keep their coverage by coming up with $35,000 within 60 days to pay for the policies — and about half said they couldn't afford it.


Former lottery security director admits rigging jackpots

MADISON — A former lottery security director will be sentenced Sept. 21 in Madison after he admitted rigging a Wisconsin Megabucks drawing among others in several states.

Fifty-four-year-old Eddie Tipton struck a plea deal in Dane County Monday that convicted him of theft by fraud and illegally modifying computer data for netting $783,000 in the Wisconsin lotto game. Four other charges were dropped as prosecutors recommended a 25 year prison term — and Tipton promised to tell how he stole the Wisconsin jackpot and those in Iowa, Colordo, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Online court records in the Badger State show he reached a combined plea deal in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado — and Tipton and his brother Tommy plan to repay $3 million. He was earlier convicted in Iowa after questions were raised about a $16 million Hot Lotto jackpot from 2010 — but an appellate court had dropped one of his two fraud convictions.