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News from around Wisconsin (8 p.m. 1/7/10)

Another annuity cut projected for Wis. retirees

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Even though the stock market rebounded in 2009, the state investment board is projecting a 1 percent cut in benefits for retirees in the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Benefits paid to the 144,000 retirees went down 2.1 percent last year for the first time thanks to steep losses in retirement system investments. Any gains or losses are spread out over five years, to smooth the effects on participants.

That helped keep last year’s reduction smaller than it otherwise would have been, but it also means that even though the state’s so-called core fund increased 22 percent in value in 2009, retirees are still going to be saddled with a 1 percent benefit drop, according to the State of Wisconsin Investment Board projections released Thursday.

The numbers will be finalized in March with the new benefit levels taking effect in May.

All retirees participate in the core fund, which includes a diverse group of both domestic and international investments.

In 2008, the core fund lost 26.2 percent but last year it rebounded and grew 22 percent. The riskier variable fund, which 35,000 retirees invested part of their contributions in, lost 39 percent in 2008 and grew nearly 34 percent last year.

That was the largest year of growth for the fund since the Wisconsin Retirement System started in 1982, according to the investment board.

Parts of Wis. get 8 inches of snow, could reach 12

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The storm in southern and eastern Wisconsin has dumped more than 8 inches of snow in some areas, which could see a total of 12 inches by morning.

The National Weather Service said Thursday evening 8.3 inches had fallen in Hartford in Washington County. Forecasts there call for a total of 10 to 12 inches by Friday morning.

Milwaukee has gotten 4½ inches with predictions for up to 8. The Madison area had about 6½ inches and Brown County had 3 to 5 inches.

Scores of southeast Wisconsin schools canceled classes, while others closed early or called off after-school activities.

The state patrol reports no major traffic incidents.

Meteorologist Courtney Obergfell said the fluffy snow could cause visibility problems with winds picking up Thursday evening.

Packers RT Tauscher bolsters weak point

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers spends a lot less time in the training room these days. Right tackle Mark Tauscher’s commitment to come back from a major knee injury is a big reason why.

The 10-year veteran returned from a torn left knee ligament for the second time in his career and was back on the field at midseason — after Rodgers had been sacked 41 times in the first nine games.

The Pro Bowl quarterback has been sacked only nine times since and while Tauscher isn’t the only reason Rodgers has stayed upright more often, he’s helped stabilize an offensive line that had its share of issues this year.

Tauscher could’ve retired after his injury in December 2008 to cap a successful career with postseason appearances in five different years after being a seventh-round pick in 2000. Instead, he’ll be starting on Sunday when the Packers face Arizona in a first-round playoff game.

“You put everything into perspective and when you’re out of it and you’re not on a team, it’s the first time I hadn’t been on a team in nine years,” Tauscher said. “When you’re coming back into it and now you get on a roll and things are really kind of going as they’re supposed to go, it’s a lot of fun.”

It’s been a lot of fun for the entire line after nine weeks of mismatches and misery. Tauscher quickly deflects any credit for the turnaround, but coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin have praised his return.

“Just his veteran presence, he’s a steady individual, well-respected individual, and he brings a consistency to your locker room, and also it carries over to your offensive line,” McCarthy said Thursday. “He deserves a lot of credit for us bouncing back from our earlier days.”

Swine flu claims 3 more in Wis., total now at 50

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State health officials said three more people died this week from swine flu.

The Department of Health Services said Thursday the deaths were reported over the past week in Milwaukee, Outagamie and Winnebago counties.

According to the agency, 50 people in Wisconsin have died from swine flu since April 2009. About 1,230 people have been hospitalized since September.

The swine flu has slowed in the state but it easily could make a return, according to the agency. However, officials say vaccine is now widely available statewide.

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