GOP questions lack of CWD plans in budget

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole is defending Gov. Tony Evers' decision not to include any new plans to fight chronic wasting disease in his state budget.

Cole appeared before the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Thursday as the panel prepares to revise Evers' budget.

Republican Sen. Devin LeMahieu pressed Cole on why the governor's spending plan includes no new strategies for combatting CWD. He asked Cole whether Evers thinks fighting the disease is important.

Cole responded that CWD is important to Evers. He says the governor wants to see what research reveals about the disease and doesn't want to spend money on it when other states are doing the work.

Cole added that the DNR needs to do more to persuade hunters to turn in deer heads for testing.

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1:37 p.m.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr says he and Gov. Tony Evers want to close the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile prison as soon as there is another facility able to accept the inmates.

Carr is testifying Thursday before the Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

Evers is proposing in his budget delaying indefinitely the closure of the juvenile prison while new, smaller facilities are being built to replace it. The prison is slated to close in 2021, but Evers says that's too soon.

Republican Sen. Tom Tiffany asked Carr about the timeline and whether he thought prison staff were safe there. Carr says they are and that assaults against them by inmates are decreasing.

Carr also says he supports Evers' plan to decriminalize possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana.

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10:55 a.m.

Republican lawmakers say Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is ignoring Wisconsin's worker shortage problem and will actually make it worse in his budget that calls for increasing the minimum wage and repealing the right-to-work law.

The Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee was dissecting Evers' workforce development proposals Thursday.

Republicans told Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman the budget doesn't do enough to find ways to attract workers to the state. Sen. Luther Olsen says the budget "really missed the mark."

Frostman says increasing the minimum wage as Evers proposed, as well as spending more on fixing roads and on education will make Wisconsin more attractive to workers.

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9:48 a.m.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' proposals for the state prison system, natural resources and workforce development were to be dissected by Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature's budget committee.

The agencies were on tap Thursday for the second of two days of agency briefings.

The hearing with officials from Evers' administration gives Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee a chance to criticize the new governor's budget while offering an alternative plan. No votes are taken.

Republicans have been highly critical of Evers' plans related to the state's corrections system, bolstering oversight of natural resources and addressing worker shortages.

Starting on Friday, the budget committee will begin hosting public hearings across the state to gather input. They are scheduled in Janesville, Oak Creek, River Falls and Green Bay.