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State Journal: Pick 'em; Laboring on; Plum's pit

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Ending the use of property-tax revenues to pay for Wisconsin schools might be a good idea, Gov. Tommy G. Thompson said recently.

Mr. Thompson was commenting on a proposed constitutional amendment that would make Wisconsin the only state except Hawaii, with its single school system, not to require communities to levy property taxes to support their schools.

The proposal was approved by the legislature in 1988, and if approved again, will go before the voters in November.

But if advocates want to be forthright in presenting their case to the public, the Republican Governor added, they should make clear how they intend to fund the schools without property-tax money--as the amendment does not do.

The state could either double its sales- or income-tax rates, he said, or take the money out of municipal budgets.

"Which one of these three do you want? Pick one of the three, or a combination," he urged.

"I think everybody wants some magic wand to come down and manufacture some money," he continued. "I'm just telling them to be honest."

In a number of states, tourism-industry groups have sought passage of laws prohibiting school districts from beginning classes before Labor Day each year.

By allowing teenagers to remain in their summertime jobs during the crucial Labor Day weekend, advocates say, such measures strengthen tourism and generate more state revenues. But educators tend to view such laws as unnecessary interference with their scheduling flexibility.

That debate has been going on for a while in Tennessee, without any final resolution.

The tourism industry recently scored a key victory, however, when the Senate approved a Labor Day bill by a 15-to-13 vote.

The bill was passed when two opponents of the measure were absent, reportedly attending a convention in Hawaii.

Some Maryland lawmakers and public-interest groups want to curb a program under which members of the legislature control substantial amounts of state scholarships for college.

The system has become a form of patronage, critics say, by allowing legislators to reward high-school graduates from politically connected families.

At a recent hearing, however, Delegate Donald E. Lamb described the practice as more a pain than a plum.

"Have you ever judged a beauty contest or a pie-eating contest?" he asked. "You always have to pick a winner, and there are always four or five people mad at you."--hd

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