November 23, 2014

Cost of Wisconsin Thanksgiving dinner up this year

PHOTO: Jackie Johnson

PHOTO: Jackie Johnson

If you’re buying the Thanksgiving dinner, expect to pay five percent more than last year. That’s according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, which surveyed grocery stores in almost two dozen cities. It found that the typical Thanksgiving dinner for ten people will cost $50.86, about three percent higher than a similar Farm Bureau survey nationally.

In Wisconsin, a 16 pound turkey will cost just over four-percent more than last year, at just over $23. Almost everything else is also higher, including milk, cranberries, sweet potatoes, peas, and pumpkin pie mix. The only item that went down was a dozen rolls, which cost 25 cents less on average at $1.85.

Amy Eckelberg of the state’s Farm Bureau says Wisconsin farmers are proud to make much of the food served at Thanksgiving celebrations — like turkey, cranberries, and potatoes. However, the farmers don’t share much of the bounty. Once the middlemen and others get their cut, the farmers’ share of the Thanksgiving meal is only about 16 percent of what the shopper pays.

Senator Ron Johnson says president ‘picking a fight’ on immigration (AUDIO)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin is accusing President Obama of using an “executive fiat” to tackle immigration reform, and warns the move could result in a strained working relationship with Republicans for the coming session of Congress.

The President on Thursday night announced an executive order that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, while shifting the focus to deporting criminals who illegally cross the border. Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) says there are serious questions about whether he has the legal authority to even take those actions. “He said as much over the past two years that he did not have the power to act in the manner he is,” argues Johnson.

AUDIO: Sen. Ron Johnson on immigration executive order (:35)

Johnson says it’s unfortunate that Obama has chosen to start off his relationship with the new Republican majority by “picking a fight,” which he believes will only make it difficult for the GOP to work with the White House on a legislative solution. Johnson says “I really do think there can be some pretty broad agreement on how we treat those individuals who are here, many through no fault of their own, but you have to do it in the right order.”

Johnson says the first priority needs to be securing the nation’s borders, which he hopes to address next year when he takes over as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Wisconsin unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in October

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell to a new post-recession low last month.

Figures released by the state Department of Workforce Development on Thursday show Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in October, down a tenth of a point from September and a big decline from 6.5 percent in October of 2013. It’s the lowest Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has been since the recession hit in 2008.

The state also stayed below the national rate of 5.8-percent.

DWD says the state added about 4,000 private sector jobs last month, while revised September numbers show the state added about 8,100 jobs during that month.

Wisconsin School choice program challenged in federal court

The Federal Courthouse building in Milwaukee (Photo:

The Federal Courthouse building in Milwaukee (Photo:

Wisconsin’s long-running public school choice program is facing a federal court challenge that argues it discriminates against disabled students. The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit in federal district court Wednesday, on behalf of three families of disabled children.

The annual Open Enrollment period allows public school students to apply for a spot in any other public school in the state. However, districts are not required to accept any students from outside their boundaries and they can deny admission to any disabled applicants if the requested district is not equipped to handle a particular situation. The lawsuit contends that it’s unconstitutional for schools to be allowed to accept traditional students but not those with special needs.

The three districts the group singled out were all in southeast Wisconsin; Elkhorn, Muskego-Norway, and Greendale. They’re among the defendants, along with state School Superintendent Tony Evers and the Department of Public Instruction. In response to the lawsuit, DPI released the following statement:

“This is a complaint about current Wisconsin state law.  Once the notice is served on this action it will be forwarded to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for representation.  The recently submitted Department of Public Instruction biennial budget request provides lawmakers with a path to improve access to open enrollment for students with disabilities.  We will continue to encourage the Governor to include this in his budget.”

WRN’s Bob Hague contributed to this report.


Early start to winter gives Wisconsin ski hills a boost



The early start to cold and snowy winter weather in Wisconsin means many ski hills in the state are ready to open ahead of schedule.

A recent cold snap, combined with several inches of snow in northern Wisconsin last week, has many ski hill operators singing the praises of winter’s early arrival this year. State Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett says dozens of ski hills are already open, or will be by this coming weekend. Klett says the season is getting started about a week and a half earlier than normal.

The state has already launched its weekly snow conditions report for the year to help travelers find out about current conditions. The service is updated weekly with reports from around the state.

While some people may complain about the cold and snow already showing up this season, Klett says there are many who welcome it with open arms. She says “there are so many people in this state who live for winter.” Winter sports have about a $4 billion annual impact on the state’s economy.