WAUSAU - Northern Wisconsin Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) expressed disappointment Friday about the Joint Finance Committee's lack of involvement in talks on the state budget, which is already almost one month late.
"Discussions have moved simply to the leadership level for about the last month. I do not like that," Tiffany said. "It should be going through the committee."
Tiffany is a member of the Joint Finance Committee, which generally approves the two-year state budget before sending it to the full legislature.
He said the budget is "pretty much at a standstill at this point."
The biggest slowdowns are over transportation funding and taxes. The state Senate and Assembly, both controlled by Republicans, have differing views on how to balance the state ledger. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) have largely taken up negotiations, bypassing the Joint Finance Committee.
"[It's] just two people that are making the decisions. It should be the committee process that decides this," Tiffany said. "I'm hoping that Joint Finance will be reconvening soon so we can finish our part of the job."
The state's biennium ended June 30. Spending levels from the past biennium continue until a new budget is passed.
"[Having a late budget] is not an uncommon thing," said Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk), another member of the Joint Finance Committee. "I don't think it's a bad thing."
While not uncommon, late budgets are much less common when one party controls the entire statehouse, as Republicans do now.
Felzkowski believes this week's announcement of a deal to bring electronics manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin will help speed the budget process.
"[The Foxconn deal] is going to affect our budget," she said. "If we're going to be doing these kinds of tax credits, and looking at infrastructure, and where we're going with all of this, we're going to have to look at both of these as a package."
Walker is asking the legislature to pass $3 billion in tax breaks as an incentive to bring Foxconn to the state. The move would create about 13,000 direct jobs.
"I think this will help move the budget process forward," Gov. Scott Walker said at a stop Friday in Wausau.
Like Felzkowski, he sees the Foxconn deal working in tandem with the state budget.
"I would imagine in the next couple of weeks, this special session on this legislation will be done. I don't know which will be before or after, but I would imagine it would be pretty close to parallel [with the budget]," Walker said. "The budget should be completed before the summer is over."
RHINELANDER - Nineteen months ago, 10 police agencies surrounded the Tripoli home of Kenneth Welsh.
Police say Welsh caused a three-hour standoff, threatened to blow up his house, and threatened to kill his wife.
Later in court, he was convicted of two felonies and sentenced to three years in prison by Oneida County Judge Michael Bloom.
But now, those convictions and prison sentence have been erased. This month, while in prison, Welsh argued he didn't fully understand all the elements of one of the crimes to which he pleaded no contest, first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Welsh's motion put some of the blame on his defense attorney, Rod Streicher.
RHINELANDER - This holiday season, you might want to tell your child to hug family members at holiday gatherings.
The Girls Scouts of the USA hopes you won't. The organization is saying daughters don't owe anyone physical affection, and that the expectation of hugs and kisses could have bad aftereffects later in life.
"I think for some people, it is a new concept," said Melissa K., the domestic violence coordinator at Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual assault, which is based in Rhinelander.
In a post, the Girl Scouts of the USA told parents their daughters don't "owe anyone a hug. Not even at the holidays."
RHINELANDER - A number of Rhinelander police and firefighters will work a weekend morning shift in December and won't get paid for it. It's an extra task they're happy to help with.
The Rhinelander Police Department's Shop With a Cop program returns December 16. Police and firefighters take 20 third grade students from Crescent, Pelican, Zion, and Nativity schools shopping for Christmas presents at Walmart. The schools recommend students for the event.
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