News – June 26, 2009

Senate Passes Final Budget Plan

6/26/09 – The Wisconsin Senate passed the Legislature’s final version of the new state budget just after 12:30 this morning – but not before Democrats spent 12 hours behind closed doors making their last changes. The oil profits’ tax was dropped, which means no gas tax increase. Democrats brought back a 30-percent tax exclusion for capital gains, after the Senate dropped the entire tax break to pay for new highways. The budget raises tax-and-fees, uses federal stimulus cash, and cuts state spending to cover the largest deficit in state history, at six-point-six billion dollars. The Senate approved it 17-to-15. All Democrats voted yes except Wauwatosa’s Jim Sullivan. Fourteen Republicans voted no, and De Pere Republican Alan Lasee was absent.

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker said the lack of revenues forced deep cuts in state spending at a time when the demand for government services is up. Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said it leaves Wisconsin in a quote, “irresponsible mess.”

Under the last-minute changes, children of illegal immigrants would pay in-state tuition to go to the U-W, but immigrants would not get special driving cards. Lawmakers guaranteed that school districts would not lose more than 10-percent of their state aid – which helps Madison and some suburban Milwaukee districts. There would not be a new limit on students in Milwaukee’s private school voucher program. The state’s limit on teacher salaries, the Q-E-O, would end immediately instead of waiting a year. All vehicles must be insured for the first time, as rates go up for higher minimum coverage limits. Regional transit authorities which levy their own taxes would be allowed in Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire, and the Ashland-Bayfield areas – but not the Fox Valley. Police could stop motorists just for not wearing their seat belts, but only if the budget is signed by Wednesday – which would allow the state to get more federal highway funds.

Legal liability reform is still out of the budget. It does not raise sales-or-income taxes, but local property taxes would rise by an average of 90-dollars in December. All phone lines get a new 75-cent a month fee. The cigarette tax jumps another 75-cents. The new income tax bracket remains for those making over 300-thousand a year. And the state’s new hospital tax is expanded to include ambulatory surgery centers.

The Assembly will take up the budget today, and cannot change it. It would then go to Governor Jim Doyle, whose office did not comment on the Legislature’s final two-year, 62-billion-dollar package.

$175K Cash Bond For Columbia Homicide Suspect

6/26/09 – Cash bond was set at $175,000 yesterday for a Columbia County man charged with First Degree Intentional Homicide. 45-year-old James Henke is accused of killing 43-year-old Thomas Kratz during an altercation early Tuesday morning in Pardeeville. Authorities were called to 128 North Main Street around 2am following reports that a man had been injured in a fight. Kratz was taken to a nearby hospital and was pronounced dead just after 5am. Sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant Tuesday afternoon in the area where the fight took place and recovered a knife on the roof of an apartment building.

Outhouse Bomb Suspect Jailed for Probation Violation

6/26/09 – One of the three Beaver Dam men suspected in a pair of mailbox and outhouse explosions was sentenced to nine months in jail yesterday for violating the terms of his probation from a previous offense. Stephen Peterson was sentenced to probation in February for damaging a white picket fence. The 19-year-old was arrested less than two months later with two accomplices in connection with the outhouse explosion. The three were identified with the use of in-store video surveillance after allegedly purchasing the explosive components at a Beaver Dam retailer. One of the suspects also returned to the scene of the crime to survey the damage.

Peterson, the purported ringleader, faces a total of 105 years in prison, if convicted. The trio has preliminary hearings scheduled on the outhouse bombings on July 16.

Sheriff Warns of Imposters in Columbia Co

6/26/09 – The Columbia County Sheriffs Department is warning the public about two men who are requesting to enter homes under false pretenses. Sheriff Dennis Richards says his office received a report yesterday that the subjects were recently spotted near Rio. The two were let to a Wyocena Township residence by claiming to be working with an insurance company. In that instance, the men were allowed into the home – without a check of identification – and looked around for about an hour. Nothing was reported missing but the sheriff says the men were possibly looking for prescription drugs or other valuables.

It was the second report of the two suspicious men the Wyocena Township, in both instances Richards says the homes had very long driveways and were secluded from other houses. Richards says the incidents bear a close resemblance to recent reports in the city of Portage, where two men had claimed to be with the Portage Police Department saying they were there to look for someone who might be in the house.

The suspects are described as white males, approximately 30-years old with no glasses or facial hair and Midwestern accents. One is five-foot ten, 200lbs with a shaved head. The other is five-foot six, 180lbs. Their vehicle is described as a large, blue four-door with Wisconsin plates. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Columbia County Crimestoppers at (800) 293-TIPS. Richards adds that citizens do not have to allow anyone in their homes without a court order. He says ask for identification and call law enforcement if your suspicious.

St. Cloud Woman Killed/ Husband Injured by SUV

6/26/09 – An elderly St. Cloud couple was struck by an SUV in Fond du Lac Thursday, killing one and seriously injuring the other. Police Captain Steve Klein says the man and woman were crossing South Seymour from east to west when a southbound SUV hit them. He says the 67-year-old woman was killed and her 74-year-old husband suffered serious injuries. Fond du Lac paramedics took the injured man out to the Flight For Life helicopter at the Fond du Lac County airport and he was flown to Theda Clark Regional Medical Center. A 30-year-old Fond du Lac woman driving the SUV and her 2-year-old son were not injured. The State Patrol is helping reconstruct the accident and police are looking for any witnesses. The accident was called in just before 7am.

Johnson Gets Jailed for Lewd Behavior

6/26/09 – A Madison man will spend 60 days in jail for performing a lewd act inside his car. The Beaver Dam Police Department responded the Kohl’s Department Store parking lot on the afternoon of May 13 after a woman reported the incident. Kevin Johnson left the scene but the witness followed him onto Highway 151. A short time later, the Columbus Police Department arrested the 42-year-old on charges of Lewd and Lascivious Behavior. Johnson was also ordered to undergo counseling.

Mercury Marine Consolidation Talks

6/26/09 – No deal is done yet, but Mercury Marine officials confirm they are in negotiations to consolidate operations in Oklahoma. The boat engine maker employs about 19 hundred workers in Fond du Lac. With the recession hitting boat sales hard, Mercury Marine is trying to cut its operating costs. The company currently employees about 400 at its Stillwater, Oklahoma, operation.

Horicon Water Wells Need Updating

6/26/09 – The city of Horicon is close to choosing a site for a new well to replace two others that are about 90-years-old. Mayor Jim Grigg says they decided to replace the older wells after maintenance workers noticed some corrosion of the wells castings. Though they have seen no evidence of surface water contamination the DNR suggested they shut those wells down and build another. The city has been looking at three different sites but hopes to strike a deal with the school district to purchase a piece of property at the high school. The city has applied for a grant to pay for the 1.25-million-dollar project.

Relay for Life of Beaver Dam Today

6/26/09 – The 14th Annual Relay for Life of Beaver Dam kicks-off this afternoon at the high school track. Things get underway at 4pm this afternoon, with the opening of the concession stands, the silent auction and walkers taking to the track. A Survivor Reception will be held from 5pm to 6pm, followed by the Opening Ceremonies. The luminary ceremony is at 10pm. A kid’s tent with games and activities will be open from 4 to 8:30pm. Last year, over $109,000 was raised; the fundraising goal this year is $114,000.

Kennedy on Community Comment

Beaver Dam Mayor Tom Kennedy will join us on Community Comment this afternoon. We’ll talk to Kennedy about the ten buildings that have recently fallen as part of the downtown redevelopment plan and the next steps in the process. We’ll also hear the latest on the Highway 33 reconstruction project, which is now slated for 2013. Community Comment airs weekdays on AM1430 following our noon news.