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Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune 

Tomah High School pitcher Connor Prielipp winds up as he throws to an Onalaska batter during a MVC game earlier this season.


Local
La Crosse County officials show off crumbling roads to highlight funding shortfalls

WEST SALEM — About two dozen local officials bounced around some of the county’s bumpiest roads Tuesday in a West Salem school bus to highlight a problem most users know all too well.

The bus, carrying county, city, town and school leaders, headed out of West Salem on County Road M, which La Crosse County has identified as in need of repair.

“I can’t tell you when we’re going to do it,” said Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain. “We haven’t identified a funding source.”

With more than $100 million in identified needs and a budget of just $6.5 million, Chamberlain said the county has been creative in searching out grants and other alternate funding sources.

“We have turned over about every rock there is to turn over,” he said.

Chamberlain

But it only goes so far.

Rough roads aren’t just an inconvenience, according to the Transportation Development Association: They cost time and put increased wear and tear on vehicles.

With just 1,500 miles, the Thomas bus is the district’s newest, but transportation director Rick Kline said keeping it rolling for the next two decades is a bigger challenge with today’s roads, which take their toll on tires and suspensions, not to mention lights and mirrors that get bounced off or thermal paned windows that cost $60 to $150 to replace.

“It’s pretty tired by the time it reaches that,” Kline said.

Last year state legislators approved an extra $40 million in aid for counties and municipal governments, the largest bump Chamberlain can remember. The county’s portion of that was enough to pave a quarter-mile of road.

“The reality is, it’s not significant,” Chamberlain said.

For town governments, the situation is even more dire. Farmington town Chairman Mike Hesse has a budget of just $117,000 to maintain some 40 miles of road. To replace a single bridge with something wide enough to accommodate modern farm equipment could cost up to $90,000.

“Structures like this we just have to live with,” he said.

Tuesday’s bus ride was the first of several such tours planned by the Transportation Development Association, an alliance of local government, businesses, road builders and other stakeholders.

Craig Thompson is executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.

TDA executive director Craig Thompson said the problem has grown worse since 2006, when Wisconsin lawmakers stopped adjusting the gasoline tax — one of the two main sources of transportation funding — to keep pace with inflation. And thanks to past borrowing, 18 cents of every transportation dollar now goes to pay back those loans.

At the same time, the nation’s interstate highway system is fast approaching the end of its 50-year useful life, putting an extra strain on those limited resources.

The TDA favors raising the gas tax and registration fees.

“The solution has to come from the state,” Thompson said. “There’s no way these communities are going to be able to solve it.”


10 most crash-prone state highway intersections in La Crosse County

10 most crash-prone state highway intersections in La Crosse County

Poll: Young adults feel stress of long-term care

WASHINGTON — Most young adults haven’t given much thought to their own needs as they get older, but a significant number are already providing long-term care for older loved ones, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

And while those who have caregiving experience put in fewer hours than their older counterparts, they’re more likely to feel stressed out by the experience.

According to the poll, a third of American adults under age 40 have already provided care for an older relative or friend, and another third expect to be called upon to do so within the next five years.

Young caregivers

According to the survey, 17 percent of young adults are currently providing long-term care to an older loved one, and another 19 percent have done so in the past.

Three-quarters of younger caregivers spend less than 10 hours a week providing care, compared to most caregivers over age 40 who provide at least 10 hours of unpaid care a week. But despite putting in fewer hours of unpaid work, younger caregivers are more likely than older caregivers to say their care responsibilities are at least moderately stressful, 80 percent to 67 percent.

At the same time, most caregivers — younger and older — say they’re getting most or all of the support they need, with young caregivers especially likely to say they receive that support from family members. Younger caregivers are also more likely than older ones to rely at least in part on social media for the support they need, 45 percent to 25 percent.

Feeling unprepared

In addition to the 35 percent who already have experience providing care, another 34 percent of adults under 40 expect to become caregivers at some point in the next five years.

Younger prospective caregivers are more likely than those age 40 and older to say they feel unprepared to take on that role, 53 percent to 37 percent. Still, most say they expect to share caregiving responsibilities rather than take them on alone.

Among all young adults, less than half say they’ve done any planning for the potential care of an older relative.

No confidence in government

Most young adults have little confidence that government safety-net programs will be there for them as they get older, and they’re not too sure about their own financial situation, either.

Only 16 percent of younger adults are very confident that they’ll have the financial resources to deal with their own care needs when they get older.

At the same time, only about 1 in 10 expect Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid to provide at least the same level of benefits when they need them, and majorities say they have little to no confidence in that being the case.

Although about 7 in 10 Americans will need some type of long-term care as they get older, just 22 percent of young adults think it’s very likely that they’ll need those types of services themselves someday. And those under age 40 are more likely than older adults to underestimate the percentage of Americans age 65 and older who will need care, 64 percent to 54 percent.


Want your $100 Wisconsin child tax rebate? Take these steps

MADISON — Wisconsin taxpayers with children under age 18 are eligible for a $100 per-child tax rebate. Here’s how to claim the money:

Why is this happening?

Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature approved the rebate. Democrats allege the one-time rebate is nothing more than an election-year bribe. But Walker and Republicans say sound fiscal management that led to a budget surplus made it possible to return the money.

It’s estimated that $122 million will be returned to taxpayers, but that depends on how many claim it.

Application window

The application window opened Tuesday and runs through July 2. Applications can be submitted online through a Wisconsin Department of Revenue website: https://childtaxrebate.wi.gov. Applications can also be made by calling 608-266-5437. That line will be answered Monday through Friday, from 7:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., but the Revenue Department said there could be significant wait times.

Who is eligble

The rebate can only be claimed for children who were under age 18 as of Dec. 31, 2017. They must also be U.S. citizens and Wisconsin residents. They also must have been claimed as dependents for the 2017 tax year. Only one person can claim the rebate for any one child.

Birth and death

Children born in 2017 are eligible, but those born in 2018 are not. If the child was alive in 2017 but died that year or in 2018, they are eligible as long as they met the other qualifying criteria.

Information to have ready

Applicants will need to submit their Social Security or Individual Tax Identification numbers along with the qualified child’s legal name, Social Security number and date of birth. Anyone who only lived a part of the year in Wisconsin last year will have to provide additional documentation to qualify. There are also options to file if a child does not have a Social Security number.

Rebate form

The rebates will come either as a direct deposit or a mailed check.

Rebate status

After applying, the taxpayer will receive a confirmation number that they can use to check on the status of a claim through the website. The Revenue Department said most rebates will be issued within three weeks of filing a claim. Others selected for review could take eight weeks.

Response

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, 71,000 people had made at least one claim with the state Department of Revenue, which estimated that claims for 1.2 million children would ultimately be submitted. Even Democrats who voted against the tax rebate were touting it. Reps. Nick Milroy, of South Range, and Jonathan Brostoff, of Milwaukee, both voted against it in February but were tweeting Tuesday about how to apply.


Local
Ron Kind touts Farm Bill tweaks to 'work for Wisconsin farmers'

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind returned to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday girded with bipartisan amendments he is proposing in the congressional battle over the 2018 Farm Bill.

Kind

Among other things, the bill, to be taken up this week, must buoy low commodity and dairy prices, Kind said during a press conference in front of the La Crosse Regional Airport, on a sunny day that finally granted relief from several gray, rainy ones.

“We need to come together and demand a better Farm Bill that works for Wisconsin farmers, families and communities,” the La Crosse Democrat said.

Kind, acknowledging that his proposals target special interest groups “I have battled before,” singled out three amendments out of seven he is proposing and the House Rules Committee is considering:

  • Setting a gross income limit for crop insurance recipients at $500,000. As it is now, “the sky is the limit” for crop insurance subsidies that go even to millionaires and billionaires, he said.
  • Reinstating the federal Conservation Stewardship Program to help farmers continue to protect their topsoil and avoid runoff.
  • Reforming the crop insurance program to lower the return rate insurers can receive on premiums to 12 percent. Kind decried the current limit of 14.5 percent, saying no other entities have such guarantees.

While factional politics get in the way in the House, he said, the Senate is operating in a more bipartisan fashion that bodes well for the $867 billion bill, spread over 10 years. Congress is tasked with renewing the legislation every five years to subsidize agriculture and food assistance programs.

The bill of more than 640 pages needs at least 60 votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-47 edge over Democrats, and in which two independents caucus with Democrats.

Even as many dairy farmers have begun selling their herds or consider doing so after months at the mercy of low payments, Kind said they are entitled to at least fair market prices.

He also expressed concern about exports, saying that dairy farmers would be forced out of business if President Donald Trump follows through on threats to eliminate dairy exports to Mexico.

“I will be meeting with the Trump trade team” this week to underscore such concerns, Kind said.

Kind criticized the potential for tighter work requirements for recipients in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps. Reports indicate that Trump will announce Wednesday that he will veto any bill that doesn’t require stricter work requirements.

SNAP covers more than 42 million Americans, and Kind noted that roughly two-thirds are children, disabled or elderly. He doesn’t mind work requirements, as long as they don’t affect those neediest people in the anti-poverty program.

Addressing the fact that many SNAP recipients already work but don’t earn enough to buy food, Kind said the fluctuating economy also cycles some recipients in and out of the program.

In response to a question about whether he is comfortable with the credibility of the White House, amid almost continuous examples of lying on the part of the president and staffers, Kind said, “Every day is an adventure, with tweets at 3, 4, 5 in the morning.”

The country requires “focused leadership instead of constant tweeting over stupid things,” he said.

In answer to a question about the furor over White House communications aide Kelly Sadler’s comment that U.S. Sen. John McCain’s voting potential is irrelevant because “he’s already dying,” Kind said that the Arizona Republican’s service in the Vietnam War and the torture he endured as a POW “should unify the country” instead of devolving into rancor.

“Regardless of your party, John McCain is a true American hero,” he said.

Regarding moving the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, where first daughter Ivanka Trump stood in for her father to open the new facility on Monday, Kind said, “It was a step too soon.

“Giving such a huge issue away makes us look like we can’t be an honest broker” and undercuts the potential for Mideast peace with a two-state solution, he said.

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, ground zero for Israeli-Palestinian discord, spurred tens of thousands of Palestinians to protest. Members of the Israel Defense Force answered with gunfire, killing more than 50 Palestinians, including eight children younger than 16, and injuring more than 2,400.

Although some of those slain were shot trying to cross the Gaza Strip border, news reports indicate that people as much as 300 to 400 yards away fell to IDF sniper fire.

Israeli and U.S. officials blamed Hamas militants for propelling protests and defended the military response.

However, at the United Nations Security Council in New York, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters, “We condemn in the strongest term the atrocity by the Israeli occupying forces using this massive firepower against civilians who have the right to demonstrate peacefully, and they have been demonstrating peacefully.

“We demand that this action be stopped immediately, and we want those responsible to be brought to justice from the Israeli side because this is not allowed under the provisions of international law,” Mansour said, according to ABC News.


Chamberlain