Tuesday Trends sample: Wis.-Minn. ties rising, central Wisconsin med school mixed and air travel falling

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Wisconsin-Minnesota ties: Officials from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue push back against reports last week that they’ve reached a deal with their Minnesota counterparts to bring back tax reciprocity. But they also say they’re optimistic about how talks to return to reciprocity are going. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty nixed the agreement between the two states after Wisconsin fell behind on its payments, forcing some 80,000 residents who live in one of the states and work in the other to file tax returns in both. But lawmakers from border communities and state revenue officials met in Minnesota last week and expressed hope a deal could be in place sometime this year that would restore the arrangement for 2013. Meanwhile, long sought-after repairs to an aging bridge between the two states are moving ahead after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes the St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act, sending it to the president’s desk. The bill would exempt a $700 million bridge project between Houlton and Stillwater, Minn., from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, clearing the way for the bridge renovation to go forward. Some in Congress decry the measure as an earmark, but the bill gets bipartisan support from both states’ lawmakers, who cite safety and economic concerns.


Central Wisconsin med school: As stakeholders continue to weigh options for alleviating a projected doctor shortage in Wisconsin, establishing a third medical school in central Wisconsin continues to remain a possible solution. One possible site in Wausau sees a hiccup this week, however, when a local health system abandons a $75 million proposal. Aspirus said the proposed Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine could not be led by five competing health systems — as previously planned — and expressed concern about the college’s potential accreditation. The dean of the nascent school says, however, that the announcement doesn’t doom the project in Wausau. Instead, backers will look into other models for ownership of the school — which could include partnering with a university. Meanwhile, as one of the state’s two current med schools — the Medical College of Wisconsin — continues to weigh in-state options for affiliated campuses, officials say nearby Marshfield has a number of factors making it an attractive site for a potential campus. The nearby Marshfield Clinic and Ministry Health Care systems headline the list, but proximity to a potential dental school in the city, UW-Eau Claire nursing programs and UW-Stevens Point aren’t far behind.


Air travel: The record-high passenger levels that marked the beginning of 2011 didn’t last at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport, as the year saw a drop of just over 3 percent in passenger levels for the full year. For just the fourth quarter, traffic fell 12 percent over the final quarter of 2010. According to a report from Mitchell officials, passenger numbers rose through May then fell off due to a combination of airline consolidation, the beginning of flight reductions from the city and increased fuel costs. Meanwhile, an effort to establish an industrial park for aviation-based businesses next to Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport goes awry when the Winnebago County Board rejects a plan to buy adjacent land by a two-to-one margin. Backers said the opportunity to purchase the land was a unique opportunity that could have led to new jobs — up to 1,000, according to one estimate. But opponents said the cost of the land — $19,000 per acre, or $1.6 million for the full 80.9-acre space — was too steep to overcome.