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State agencies may have to cut because of furloughs

Madison (AP) — State agencies may find themselves looking for even more cuts than expected if employees decide to cash in unused vacation time for pay to offset the effect of furloughs.

Cashing out up to five days vacation, or banking unused vacation days to cash out later when they retire or leave state employ, are two options available to state workers ordered by Gov. Jim Doyle to take 16 unpaid days off.

Both state and union leaders say it’s too early to know how many of the 69,000 state workers may use either option.

According to Jennifer Donnelly, director of the Office of State Employee Relations, the $121 million in savings under the furloughs has already been taken out of the state budget, so there would have to be a corresponding cut to any new increase.

Northern Wisconsin callers must start dialing 10 digits

Madison (AP) — State telecommunications regulators want phone customers in northern Wisconsin to start adding the area code to local calls beginning Saturday.

The move is designed to help customers in the 715 area code prepare for the region’s new 534 area code.

The new code goes into effect for new phones and services in the region in August and will exist side-by-side with 715.

Dialing the old seven-digit number will still work until July. After that customers will have to use 10 digits or their calls won’t go through.

Local calls will still cost the same, regardless of dialing 10 digits. And customers can still dial 911 without an area code.

California considers strict energy standards for TVs

Sacramento, CA (AP) — California utilities and environmental groups urged state energy regulators to ban the most power-hungry televisions from stores as a way to lower electricity demand.

A rule before the California Energy Commission would impose the nation’s first energy-efficiency requirements for flat-screen TVs, a mandatory standard that is expected to be copied by other states.

A vote on the standard could come as early as next month.

Some manufacturers argue a mandatory power standard would hamper innovation, limit consumer choice and hurt California electronics retailers.

Energy commissioners say the rule could play a key role in reducing electricity use as consumers buy larger TVs and put more of them in their homes. It could also help California meet its 2006 global warming law, which calls for the state to cut its greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020.

Philippines seeks $1 billion for storm reconstruction

Manila, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines will be seeking at least $1 billion from international donors for reconstruction after devastating back-to-back storms highlighted the country’s vulnerability to climate change, officials said Wednesday.

“The underlying doctrine is that the Philippines is a victim of climate change, not a culprit,” President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said at an economic briefing for investors and diplomats.

She blamed extreme weather for the worst flooding in 40 years that struck the rice-growing northern Philippines late last month when a typhoon after a storm dumped heavy rains that triggered landslides and inundated towns.

Federal utility to provide Mexico City electricity

Mexico City (AP) — The Federal Electricity Commission will provide service to Mexico City and the surrounding areas, taking over from a disbanded public utility, according to the Mexican government.

President Felipe Calderon has disbanded the utility Luz y Fuerza, citing a gaping budget hole that threatened service to 25 million consumers.

The Energy Department announced that the Federal Electricity Commission will now provide service to Mexico City and parts of four central states.

FAA proposes fines against United, US Airways

Washington (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration wants to levy multimillion dollar penalties on United Airlines and US Airways for safety violations.

According to the FAA, the agency has proposed a $5.4 million fine against US Airways for operating eight planes on a total of 1,647 flights from October 2008 to January 2009 in violation of safety directives or the company’s own maintenance rules.

The FAA also is proposing a $3.8 million fine against United for allegedly operating one of its Boeing 737 aircraft on more than 200 flights after the carrier had violated its own maintenance procedures on one of the plane’s engines, according to the agency.

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