Education at the fore of Democrats’ budget hearing
By Nora Hertel, Wausau Daily Herald
 
WAUSAU — Education was the primary concern and frustration during a budget hearing held by state legislative Democrats at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County on Saturday, said state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point.
 
About 50 people showed up, many to oppose cuts to the University of Wisconsin System and public schools proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year budget.
 
Walker’s budget includes provisions to cut $300 million from the UW System, expand the voucher school program and eliminate $150 per pupil in categorical aid in the budget’s first year.
 
Shankland and fellow Stevens Point Democrat, state Sen. Julie Lassa, took comments with Joint Finance Committee member Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh. State Democrats are holding nine listening sessions around the state, on top of the four day-long hearings coordinated by Republican leaders of the Joint Finance Committee.
 
“People certainly want to feel like their voices are heard,” Shankland said after the hearing. “These are important anecdotes that we can bring back to Madison for our own education and to educate members of both parties and the public.”
 
Those speaking on behalf of public schools feel that their programs are limping along since the last round of cuts, she said. Students of UWMC attended as did a number of seniors. The older commentators voiced concern about a budget provision that requires SeniorCare recipients to first enroll in Medicare Part D.
 
“It would end SeniorCare as we know it,” Shankland said.
 
Other opposition addressed proposed reductions in the state Department of Natural Resources’ science bureau and a proposal to shift property assessments from the municipal to the county level.