Friends and Neighbors,
We have witnessed an astounding and historic show of democracy across the state and in our State Capitol over the past month. Regardless of political persuasion, it has been truly inspiring to see so many of my constituents involved in the legislative process, and I think we can all agree that citizen participation across the political spectrum is a fundamental aspect of a representative democracy.
I would also like to commend the outstanding work of law enforcement throughout the state during these tense times. Officers from all corners have come to Madison to help promote a safe and civil atmosphere over the past several weeks. They have treated the protesters, legislators, and Capitol staff with respect and have ensured that everyone in the Capitol remain safe and secure. Their work has not gone unnoticed, and my colleagues and I are sincerely appreciative.
That said, I remain deeply concerned about the implications that Governor Walker’s recently-enacted budget adjustment bill will have on Wisconsin families. The bill that Governor Walker signed into law this past week was stripped of every provision deemed fiscal in nature by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau in order to force a vote with virtually no public notice. Namely, they removed the $165 million in bond restructuring that Gov. Walker had said was necessary to correct the budget shortfalls he had identified. This was an underhanded and unethical move that shows that the Governor and the Republican Legislature were more concerned with removing collective bargaining for state workers than actually addressing our state’s remaining deficit for this fiscal year. It also negatively affects vital health services for children and seniors by providing carte blanche authority to an unelected bureaucrat to make dramatic changes to our state’s vital Medicaid programs with little public input.
The legality of the process in which the budget adjustment bill was enacted into law has been brought to question in the courts. The issue at hand is whether the passage of the bill violated Wisconsin’s open meetings laws. Most recently, a Dane County Circuit Court Judge agreed to hear a case against the bill, putting a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the law’s publication and implementation until the case has made its way through Wisconsin’s judicial process. In turn, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has formally requested that a state appeals court lift the TRO, continuing what is sure to be a back-and-forth battle in our court system.
Not only am I disappointed with the impact that the budget adjustment bill will have on many Wisconsinites, but I am even more concerned with Governor Walker’s 2011-2013 Biennial Budget Proposal. His proposal will threaten the quality of our schools, services within our local communities, and programs provided to some of our most vulnerable populations through drastic cuts to school aids, shared revenues, and Medicaid programs. While I look forward to dissecting this proposal further once the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has completed its summary of every item contained in the governor’s proposal, it is obvious that many vital programs and services will suffer, and the impact will be most painfully felt by people with limited incomes, especially individuals living with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
I firmly believe that all Wisconsin residents should share the burden of solving our state’s fiscal challenges, and this will certainly require tough decisions that will affect everyone within our community. These discussions will not be easy – and we will all be forced to make difficult decisions and sacrifices – but it remains imperative that we work together to do so in a balanced manner. In turn, I look forward to working with you and my colleagues in the legislature as we work to take a well-measured, evidence-based approach in addressing the critical issues facing our state.
Education Town Hall
The Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Caucus will be hosting a series of town hall meetings focused on various aspects of the 2011-2013 Biennial Budget over the next coming weeks. Each meeting will be dedicated to a general issue area within the budget proposal, and legislators will spend a majority of the meeting simply receiving feedback and answering questions from those in attendance.
The goals of these meetings are to educate our constituents, create an open dialogue, and get direct feedback from the community so that we can make informed decisions on issues that impact the greater Milwaukee community as we navigate through the budget process.
The first town hall will focus on education issues – ranging from early childhood through the university level and beyond. The proposed cuts and changes to education in the budget are certain to have an impact on our area communities, so I hope we are able to facilitate a thoughtful conversation surrounding the anticipated effect of these provisions.
The meeting will be held at the UW-Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Room (2200 E Kenwood Blvd), on Tuesday, March 29 from 5:30pm to 9:30pm.
All Milwaukee-area legislators will be invited to attend these hearings, and they will be open to all members of the public.
22nd Assembly District
OFFICE: State Capitol, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI, 53708 • PHONE: (608) 266-7671
firstname.lastname@example.org • FAX: (608) 262-3622