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Wisconsin roundup: Wis. officials slam, support Trump comments; 9 more state news stories

Wisconsin leaders voiced mixed reaction to comments made Tuesday, Aug. 15, by President Donald Trump regarding a white supremacist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Va. File photo

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville takes issue with President Donald Trump's latest comments on the violence at the white supremacist rally in Virginia.

Trump said Tuesday "both sides" share some of the blame, as he called a suspect in the death of a female counter protester a "disgrace" to himself and his country — while Trump called some of the counter protesters "very violent." Ryan tweeted a response, calling white supremacy "repulsive" and as he put it, "There can be no moral ambiguity."

Milwaukee House Democrat Gwen Moore called on Congress to remove the GOP president and restore what she calls "our national dignity that has been robbed by Donald Trump's presence in the White House." Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told Fox News host Sean Hannity that Trump "does not have a racist bone in his body" — and Clarke said it was embarrassing that politicians couldn't wait to flaunt what he called "their racial and moral superiority."


Fire sprinkler rule dropped; lawmakers asked to bring it back

MADISON — A state agency says it can no longer enforce a rule that requires fire sprinklers for apartment buildings with three to 20 units.

And the attorney general's office plans to write a formal opinion on whether it has to be thrown out. The Department of Safety and Professional Services tried dropping the rule earlier this year, but the agency did an about face once the word got out. Now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the department is citing a 2011 state law which says agencies cannot write and enforce rules stricter than what the law actually says — and the last law passed by the governor and Legislature called for sprinklers only in buildings with 20 or more units.

Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing says the new interpretation leaves many apartment dwellers at risk, noting that sprinklers are the one of the best ways to save lives — and he says legislators should update its laws to require sprinklers in structures with three or more units.


Milwaukee mayor wants special sales tax to fight crime

MILWAUKEE — The mayor of Wisconsin’s largest city wants to impose a 0.5 percent sales tax in the city to help fight crime.

At a public hearing on the proposed Milwaukee city budget for 2018, Mayor Tom Barrett asked the state to allow the city to adopt such a sales tax — and if it can't, he said there would be "steep" cuts in both police and fire personnel.

Barrett says he wants to put the sales tax to Milwaukee voters next April. He warned earlier that the city might have to cut 84 police officer positions next year, something he repeated Tuesday night. In Barrett's words, "The Pac Man that's eating everything right now is public safety," and he said the city can no longer rely on general state aid and property taxes to keep emergency services going.


Johnson: Maybe Illinois could help pay Foxconn

MILWAUKEE — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says the proposed Foxconn plant would have workers from Illinois and maybe that state should help Wisconsin pay the $3 billion in incentives.

Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, told the Milwaukee Rotary Club Tuesday that some state lawmakers are right to be skeptical about the project's success — but in the end, he says it's "probably a risk worth taking." Johnson used to run a plastics factory in Oshkosh, and he says the ratio of state money to private money in the LCD screen plant is a good deal.

Foxconn would spend $10 billion to locate the plant in Kenosha or Racine counties, as Wisconsin taxpayers shell out $3 billion. A Johnson spokesman later appeared to take back the idea of Illinois kicking in money as Ben Voelkel wrote to the Journal Sentinel, "Johnson trusts Gov. (Scott) Walker and the state Legislature to determine a solution that promotes job growth and protects taxpayers."


State equalized property values rise 4 percent

MADISON — The value of all taxable property in Wisconsin rose by 4 percent last year.

The Revenue Department said Tuesday that the state's total equalized value is $526 billion dollars as of Jan. 1.

Close to two thirds of that represents home values, which rose for a fourth straight year with an increase of 4.3 percent. In a separate report, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said the total equalized value is at an all time high, and the year to year increase is the biggest since 2007 just before the Great Recession began. However, the tax alliance says property values have not recovered from their prerecession levels in 29 of the state's 72 counties — mostly in southeast and central regions. Eighteen counties had jumps of 10 percent or more in that same time period.


Judge allows challenge of state’s butter standards to proceed

PORT WASHINGTON — A circuit judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit that challenges grading standards for all butter sold in Wisconsin.

Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy said Tuesday he wanted to see the case move forward before deciding on its merits. At issue is a law in place since 1953 in which butter must receive a state or federal grade like "A" or “AA" before it can be sold — which critics say is designed to protect Wisconsin producers.

A food store in Grafton says it prevents the Irish brand Kerrygold from being sold in the state, and it violates the equal protection and due process clauses in the state Constitution. Assistant state attorney general Katherine Spitz says the law gives consumers information about the quality of butter in the dairy case, and that should be enough to make it constitutional — although the plaintiffs say the grading law does not reflect the product's nutritional standards or safety.


State jobs agency must still do financial checks on Foxconn

MADISON — Wisconsin's job agency must still take a close look at Foxconn's finances and market share, as it stands to receive up to $3 billion in state tax breaks.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation had a rough start in its first few years when it was found it did not keep enough tabs on businesses that got state tax incentives. The agency is doing a better job of that now, but a state audit in May still said the WEDC needed to make improvements in checking whether firms met their job creation benchmarks before getting tax money.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says it's not certain whether the state will complete its financial review of Foxconn by the Sept. 30 deadline to make a deal for state incentives for building a new LCD screen plant in Racine or Kenosha counties.


Bowler girl protects little brother during dog attack

SHAWANO COUNTY — The Shawano County Sheriff's Office says an 11-year-old Bowler girl who was bitten several times by a loose dog is being credited for saving her brother's life.

Television station WBAY reports that witnesses told deputies that the girl was walking down the street with her 2-year-old brother when they came across a loose pit bull. The girl put herself between the dog and her brother to protect the little boy. Investigators say the dog bit the girl four times, and then headed toward her little brother.

The girl yelled, and that diverted the dog's attention. The sheriff's office says witnesses were able to get the dog off the girl by using a baseball bat. The girl was taken to a hospital for treatment. Investigators say the dog was on quarantine because it had recently killed another dog. The owner had the dog put to sleep.


State report: Foxconn to generate fewer than expected jobs

MADISON — A state funded report says the presence of Foxconn would create fewer employees than projected outside the high tech plant — but there would be more construction jobs than first estimated.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained a report from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, in which Baker Tilly analysts found that the Foxconn plant would spur 12,000 to 18,000 jobs at places like suppliers and nearby restaurants — as opposed to 22,000 estimated by a study commissioned by Foxconn. The state review shows that about 20,000 to 25,000 jobs would be needed to build facilities wherever the plant goes — and that's higher than Foxconn's initial estimate of 16,200 jobs. A state Assembly panel has endorsed $3 billion in state incentives to get Foxconn to locate in Kenosha or Racine counties, and a full Assembly vote on that is set for Thursday.


Racine man gets life in prison for killing neighbor

RACINE — A 50-year-old Racine man will spend the rest of his life in prison for strangling a neighbor with an electric cord.

A judge did not give Harry Fumich any chance of earning a supervised release down the line. He pleaded guilty to first degree intentional homicide in the slaying of Kim Cantwell last October — and charges of hiding a corpse and stealing from a dead person were dropped in a plea deal.

Prosecutors say Fumich intended to kill Cantwell because he thought she owed him money, but the defense said Fumich had a lack of "family stability" in his early years, and "underlying trauma" led to an addiction of crack cocaine which played a role in the killing.