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DATELINE: EAU CLAIRE, Wis.; The Associated Press State & Local Wire July 5, 2002

Residents are mourning the loss of a radio program that provided a slice of diversity in the community for 13 years.

Up to 90 percent of the 2,500 Hmong in the Chippewa Valley listened to the " Hmong Hour," a six-day-a-week Hmong language radio program, said See Vang, executive director of the Hmong Association.

The last show aired Saturday.

Kao Xiong, 40, a former anti-communist guerrilla who fled Laos to avoid persecution, founded the show in 1989 on WUEC-FM, a Wisconsin Public Radio station. Then, the half-hour show played twice a week, featuring music, news and community announcements.

But as word caught on, advertisers became interested, and Xiong decided to move it to WISM-AM, a private religious station that accepted advertisements.

Starting in 1993, the hourlong, Monday-to-Saturday show attracted a wide audience, from people tuning in for the diverse music to older people who liked hearing the news in their native tongue.

"Hmong Hour" helped Hmong and Caucasian cultures understand each other better, said Dave Barrett, general manager of WISM-FM.

But after the station was sold to a Catholic group, it was moved to the 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. hour, which cost it advertisers who wanted play during the afternoon drive time.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin would solve its current $1.1 billion budget deficit - while leaving a financial hole more than twice that size for the future - under legislation before the state Assembly Friday.

The bill, which does not raise taxes, relies on proceeds from the sale of the state's tobacco settlement payments to balance the books, but state fiscal analysts estimate the plan would leave a $2.8 billion deficit for the next two-year budget that begins July 1, 2003.

The plan resulted from three months of partisan wrangling by a committee of lawmakers - split evenly between the Senate and Assembly, Democrats and Republicans.

The state Senate narrowly approved the bill 17-16 Wednesday night, with all Democrats except Sen. Gary George of Milwaukee voting for it and all Republicans voting against it.

The bill still must be passed by the Republican-controlled Assembly and signed by GOP Gov. Scott McCallum to become law.

The shortfall resulted from falling revenues caused by the economic recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The bill would reduce the state aid local governments use to pay for services like police and fire protection by just $40 million in 2004. An additional $45 million in the aid would go to pay cities, towns and villages that save money by consolidating services such as recycling and garbage collection.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The government is only applying a bandage if it uses all the money from selling off tobacco settlement payments to wipe out the $1.1 billion state budget deficit, critics say.

According to James Cox, an analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, no other state has used all its money from the sale of tobacco payments for budget-balancing.

"You're the only one," said Cox, who studies how states use the payments from the multistate settlement over health damage done by tobacco over the years.

A compromise budget adjustment bill passed by the Senate and going before the Assembly Friday would use $825 million from the sale of the tobacco settlement, on top of the $450 million already being used to balance the budget.

A dozen other states have sold to investors the decades of future health care payments due from cigarette manufacturers, but none has used all of those profits to pay the current budget bills, Cox said.

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Fourteen Wisconsin counties have stopped providing home health care services and have turned those services over to the private sector since Congress changed the Medicare reimbursement system in 1997.

The counties said the federal government's funding for Medicare-eligible clients wasn't keeping up with the cost of providing home care services; including therapeutic care, medication management or grooming assistance.

"The counties were subsidizing (the reimbursements) and the taxpayers are simply saying we can't afford to underwrite these programs and they get out of it," said Russell King, director of the Wisconsin Homecare Organization.

Since 1997, at least 12,000 Medicare or Medicaid-eligible Wisconsin residents no longer receive the health care services in their homes, according to the organization.

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Only days before the All-Star game is played at Miller Park, residents of a nearby neighborhood said Thursday they are ready to take on the Legislature to stop a freeway expansion plan.

About 40 residents of Story Hill joined Mayor John O. Norquist and other officials in blasting state lawmakers for their plan that would expand Interstate 94 west of Miller Park, where the All-Star game is scheduled Tuesday.

That stretch of I-94 runs between the stadium and the park-like Story Hill neighborhood.

A compromise budget repair bill approved by the state Senate Wednesday night and due to go before the Assembly Friday would include adding lanes to I-94. If approved by the Assembly, the proposal will go to Gov. Scott McCallum for signing.

State Rep. David Cullen, D-Milwaukee, said the expansion plan would affect more than 200 homes and 31 businesses.