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Column: Past year was good and bad

2009 was a difficult and challenging year for our nation's economy.

Wisconsin was not spared, as state budget shortfalls exploded and job losses mounted.

Politically, Wisconsin's long standing split party governance in the Legislature and Governor's Office was replaced with one-party domination, as Democrats now fully control both branches of state government.

Here are the top 10 significant events from state government in 2009 as I saw it:

Job losses: Unemployment in Wisconsin approached 10 percent, and state unemployment and safety nets, such as BadgerCare, were maxed out.

Income tax reciprocity ends: In September of 2009, Minnesota pulled out of the 40-year-old income tax reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin.

Drunken driving crackdown: DUI laws were strengthened, with new penalties, new treatments and prevention options, and the expanded use of ignition interlock devices.

Car insurance mandates: The state budget bill now requires every driver to have auto insurance, while premiums increased dramatically to account for new mandates that increase and expand coverage.

Deer hunting debacle: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is now in public hearings concerning questionable herd management that left many hunters skunked during the fall gun deer hunt.

Health insurance mandates added: Autism coverage, dependents up to age 27, cochlear implants, and contraception were added to the list of insurance mandates in Wisconsin.

Property tax alarms: The budget bill included a repeal of cost control measures for school districts and doubled the allowable property tax increases for municipal and county government.

Stillwater Bridge allocation: A budget provision now designates state funding sources for a new St. Croix River crossing.

Statewide smoking ban enacted: The Legislature passed a ban on smoking in enclosed public places of employment that goes into effect July 5, 2010.

Budget bill passed: Starting with a historic $6.6 billion budget shortfall, state taxes were increased by $1.9 billion.

In addition the state received $3.2 billion in federal stimulus funds, and the projected 2011-13 structural deficit stands at over $2.2 billion.

What should the state legislature be focused on for 2010?

Visit my Web site -- www. -- to offer your comments, read blogs, or participate in online surveys.

You can also call me toll free from Wisconsin at (800) 862-1092.

Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, can be reached at (715) 232-1390 or