August 21, 2007

Assembly Budget Punishes Milwaukee

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

As the budget process drags into its seventh month, many people around Wisconsin are beginning to wonder why we in the legislature have not come to a compromise.  The answer is simple: The Assembly Republicans’ budget proposal punishes Milwaukee punishes Milwaukee.  When it comes to the issue of creating a thriving, prosperous community, there can be no compromise.

The Republicans claim that their budget is based on “fairness.” Several times during recent debates they have spoken at length about the “fairness” of their proposal.  Sadly, their actions do not match their rhetoric.  Apparently my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have a very skewed notion of what true “fairness” is.

They believe it is fair to cut over $52 million dollars from Wisconsin Shares, a program that provides vital child care services to lower income families.  This program serves over 50,000 children statewide, and helps struggling parents afford the care that their children deserve.  The Republicans’ sense of “fairness” mandated that Wisconsin Shares be scrapped.

The educational system was treated with similar “fairness.” First, the Republican Assembly cut $18 million in high poverty aid to MPS.  Then it cut out a program that would have significantly narrowed the achievement gap in Math and Science.  As if that weren’t “fair” enough, the Republicans cut out a provision that would have allowed schools to spend more money on safety provisions.  The Republicans even went back on their promise to increase the SAGE per pupil payment to $2,250, a commitment made in 2005’s Assembly Bill 1057.

Despite their party’s rhetoric of recent years, the Republicans didn’t hesitate to extend their “fairness” to the law enforcement services that protect our community.  They cut $900,000 is grants that would put more police on our streets.  They then cut thousands of dollars from a new community policing initiative, AODA grants, and treatment alternatives to incarceration.  Finally, they slashed $1.2 million in grants for domestic abuse prevention.  I’m certain that victims of violence will appreciate this brand of “fairness.”

The deepest cuts stemming from the Republicans’ “fairness” were reserved for the City of Milwaukee, which lost $28 million in proposed funding.  To put these cuts in perspective, the city could cease all garbage collection services, and still not be able to make up that cut.  Such a reduction in funding would almost certainly force cuts to police and fire services, which would only compound the damage done by the Republicans other cuts.   

The agenda of the Assembly Republicans seems clear:  Punish Democrats and punish Milwaukee.  This is simply unacceptable, and certainly not “fair.” My fellow Democrats and I will never accept such a position.  We will fight as long as we have to in order to produce a strong, progressive budget that embodies the true fairness that our families deserve!