Friday, February 21st

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MADISON - Officials got word Thursday that the state is expected to take in about $818 million more through mid-2021 than previously believed — making funds available for some of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' initiatives and tax cut favored by Republicans. 

Much of the extra money will automatically go into the state's rainy-day fund, so lawmakers will have about $452 million in unanticipated funds available for spending or cutting taxes. The state is expected to take in the additional money through June 2021.

The additional money is flowing into the state's coffers because the economy has delivered stronger tax collections than what officials anticipated when the state budget was approved last year. The nonpartisan Legislative Bureau disclosed the new figures in a memo Thursday.

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The extra money comes as lawmakers wind down their legislative session but consider last-minute ideas, including a plan to reduce property taxes.

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Mary Oblein, left, and Sam Bednarz use their hands for finger-knitting in a math class that incorporates knitting Tuesday at Carthage College in Kenosha. Sara Jensen, an assistant professor of mathematics, has a mission to get people to understand math as a method of better understanding of the world around them through knitting and observing real-life objects.(Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

KENOSHA – Few people look at a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles and think, well, here's a math problem waiting to be solved.

Sara Jensen does.

Before she was a mathematician, before she earned a doctorate in abstract algebra at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, before she began teaching math at Carthage College in Kenosha, Jensen was a little girl learning to knit from her grandmother.

Like many who learned the craft from an older family member, Jensen knitted for a while, then stopped before taking up the hobby again as an adult.

MADISON - Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is calling on lawmakers to return to the Capitol next week to expand exports for Wisconsin dairy farmers who are struggling under low milk prices and suffocating tariffs.

Evers in his second State of the State address announced a sweeping plan to help the state's signature industry, which has been decimated in recent years and rejected President Donald Trump's attitude toward the crisis.

"We’ve endured the consequences of unnecessary and unproductive tariffs and trade wars. And we’ve heard people who’ve said there’s no place for small farms anymore —they ought to go big or bust," Evers said according to prepared remarks, referring to comments made by Trump's agriculture secretary in an October visit to Madison.

"Well, they’re wrong. They don’t know Wisconsin," Evers continued. "We have not forgotten those who have shared the harvest and bounty, feeding our families, our communities, our state, and our country for more than a century.

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In what appears to be a first, the state Department of Public Instruction is endorsing "explicit phonics instruction" as a critical component in teaching children to read.

And the department said Wednesday it is developing materials and supports aimed at helping school districts determine whether their reading instructional materials are aligned with state standards and what to do if they are not.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford Taylor alluded to the development in her remarks Wednesday at the opening of the 2020 Wisconsin State Education Convention in Milwaukee. Stanford said the changes would be "reflected over the coming months in the supports and best practices we provide."

"Our outcomes, especially in reading, are not where we want them to be," said Stanford Taylor, who was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers last year and is not seeking a second term.

"We have spent a significant amount of time analyzing the reading data, looking at the research on reading, and examining the instructional materials being used and the alignment with state standards.

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The Wisconsin DNR recently confirmed high levels of "forever" foam chemicals in Starkweather Creek, where it empties into Lake Monona in Madison.(Photo: Wisconsin DNR)

MADISON – The Natural Resources Board signed off Wednesday on setting environmental standards for two "forever chemicals" under a process that will likely take years.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in August asked to set standards for PFOA and PFOS, which are among the perfluorinated compounds dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.

The board on Wednesday agreed to do that on a 5-1 vote, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The rules will set enforceable standards for the levels of PFAS in cover groundwater, surface water and public drinking water.

PFAS are used in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabric and firefighting foam. They have drawn increasing attention as they have been found in waterways around the state, including in Milwaukee, Madison and Marinette.

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The Wisconsin DNR recently confirmed high levels of "forever" foam chemicals in Starkweather Creek, where it empties into Lake Monona in Madison.(Photo: Wisconsin DNR)

MADISON – The Natural Resources Board signed off Wednesday on setting environmental standards for two PFAS compounds under a process that will likely take years.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in August asked to set standards for PFOA and PFOS, which are among the perfluorinated compounds dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not breakdown in the environment.

The board on Wednesday agreed to do that on a 5-1 vote, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The rules will cover groundwater, surface water and public drinking water.

PFAS are used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabric and firefighting foam. They have drawn increasing attention as they have been found in waterways around the state, including in Milwaukee, Madison and Marinette.

Wisconsin and some other states are looking at setting standards because they believe federal regulators are being too slow to act.

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