Erin Toner

News Reporter

Erin Toner is a reporter for WUWM. Erin was WUWM's All Things Considered local host from 2006 to 2010. She began her public radio career in 1999 at WMUK in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Prior to joining WUWM in 2006, Toner spent five years at WKAR in East Lansing, Michigan.

During her career, Toner has served as a mentor for NPR's Next Generation Radio project, trained and mentored college students and taught a news reporting course at Michigan State University. She holds a degree in journalism from Michigan State University.

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Marzky Ragsac Jr., Fotolia

Hot-button issues came before the Legislature’s Joint Finance committee on Tuesday. Many votes fell along party lines, with Republicans approving items in Gov. Walker’s budget and Democrats resisting, unsuccessfully.

The committee approved one of Gov. Walker’s proposals that would require certain residents seeking unemployment benefits, food stamps or Medicaid coverage to be tested for substance use. Those who fail could keep their benefits if they enrolled in taxpayer-funded treatment.

State Rep. Dale Kooyenga explained his support for the plan.

A Milwaukee Democrat is hoping to increase the number of young people who vote.

State Rep. Mandela Barnes' bill would let 16- and 17-year-olds pre-register to vote when they apply for a driver's license or state ID card. Then, when they turn 18, the state would automatically add them to the voting rolls.

Mike Wilder is co-chairman of the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable in Milwaukee. He says similar laws in other states have helped increase voter participation among young people.

Gov. Walker spent time in New Orleans Monday, touting plans to expand Wisconsin’s school voucher program. Tuesday, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will debate his proposal.

While Wisconsin may open its voucher program to more students, not many other states are headed in that direction.

Milwaukee Public Schools will hold the final public hearing Thursday on its proposed budget for next school year. The district faces a $29-million deficit brought on by falling state and federal aid.

Gov. Walker has proposed cutting $127 million from public schools next year. That number could change when lawmakers take up K12 spending in coming weeks, but if it doesn’t, MPS would lose $12 million. On top of that, Superintendent Darienne Driver says the district’s federal funding is going down by $17 million.

Republicans in Madison have dialed back one of Gov. Walker’s spending cuts for public radio and television. The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday voted to reduce state aid to the Educational Communications Board by about $2.3 million. Walker had proposed a cut about twice that size.

The Educational Communications Board partners with UW Extension to operate Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. The board also manages emergency alert systems and develops Wisconsin-specific educational materials for K12 schools. WUWM in Milwaukee is not affiliated with the ECB.


A couple of state lawmakers say they have a plan to turn around the most underperforming public schools in Milwaukee. The proposal by Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills and Rep. Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield would give the Milwaukee County executive authority to appoint new leaders in MPS schools that are deemed as failing.

Neither legislator returned our calls seeking comment Monday.

Their proposal would allow County Executive Chris Abele to appoint a commissioner charged with turning around up to five underperforming MPS schools per year.

zinkevych, fotolia

How well do you know your U.S. history? What if you had to correctly answer dozens questions about government and the founding fathers in order to move on in life?

That’s what a Wisconsin lawmaker wants high school seniors to do in order to graduate – pass the same civics test new U.S. citizens take. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing in Madison Wednesday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Milwaukee has stopped issuing licenses for drivers with rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft. The city’s announcement comes after Gov. Walker signed a bill Friday prohibiting local rideshare regulations.

The city of Milwaukee has licensed more than 200 Uber and Lyft drivers since last summer.

“The city provided, or conducted background checks on all driver applicants. The city required proof of insurance, which we would review and maintain,” says Ald. Bob Bauman.

Milwaukee also inspected drivers’ cars.

Susan Bence

UPDATE:  Earlier this month, emergency responders told the the city's public works committee that if a rail crisis occurred in downtown Milwaukee up to a half mile area might be evacuated. That topic reverberated again at today's meeting.

It was attended by Canadian Pacific Railway representatives and Wisconsin Commissioner of Railroads Jeff Plale.

Erin Toner

This year marks notable anniversaries for the country’s entitlement programs for seniors. Medicare turns 50 and Social Security turns 80. 

Federal leaders continue talking about ways to sustain benefits for older Americans because their numbers are growing.

Milwaukee area seniors offered ideas Monday at the Washington Park Senior Center.

Harold Omeig, who’s 70, says his monthly Social Security check from the federal government is all he has.