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Green Bay Packers: With a winning streak extending for more than a full calendar year — the second longest in NFL history — the venerable football team likely couldn’t have picked a better time to offer fans a share of the organization. Team officials had hoped to sell 250,000 shares of Packers stock — the first such stock sale since 1997 and just the fifth in the team’s 92-year history — by the end of February as part of a funding package for improvements and seating expansions at Lambeau Field. But fans snag 185,000 shares — sold at $250 each with an additional $25 handling fee — in just the first two days of the stock sale for the country’s only publicly owned major sports franchise, despite the benefits to stockholders being almost entirely sentimental. The $46 million raised so far already exceeds the proceeds of the last stock sale, and the team is authorized to expand the sale beyond the 250,000-share allotment. Any funding from the sale not used for the $143 million stadium renovation would go toward other projects in the Lambeau area, where the team owns 28 acres of property.
Health care: Wisconsinites paid about $7,200 per person for health care on average in 2009, according to a new report from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. While that places Wisconsin 35th in the country, the report shows the average was 6 percent more than the national average. And the report shows the state’s health care spending per person increased by an average of 6 percent each year between 1991 and 2009 — also above the national rate, which showed a 5.3 percent average annual increase. The analysis comes as the Walker administration is trying to curb state government’s health care spending, requesting a waiver from the federal government for sweeping changes to the state’s Medicaid programs over the protests of Democrats. But CMS tells state Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith late last week that it is unlikely to reach a decision on the waiver by state-requested deadline of Dec. 31. DHS has said denial of the waiver would force thousands of BadgerCare enrollees to be dropped from the state program. Meanwhile, the administration authorizes a waiver request for the continuation of the SeniorCare prescription drug program, which has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. The current SeniorCare waiver is set to expire at the end of the year.
Central Wisconsin: The Wisconsin River Valley is hit hard by a pair of massive layoff announcements over the last week. First, Wausau Papers announces it will sell its premium print and color paper divisions to Neenah Paper and close its mill in Brokaw at the end of March, eliminating 450 positions at the historic plant. The company said the decision was driven by a dramatic decline in market demand, while a Marathon County Development Corp. analysis projects the mill closure could cost an additional 650 jobs and $27 million to the regional economy. Twenty miles to the south, window and door maker Schield Family Brands announces it will close its plant in Mosinee after the company and the union representing plant workers fail to reach an agreement on a new contract. The 550 layoffs resulting from the closure are set to begin in February.