June 24, 2015

What do Republicans have against Milwaukee?

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Until a few weeks ago, the state budget process had been like ripping off a Band-Aid; painful, but quick.

Governor Scott Walker’s budget introduction back in February was a typical Walker budget. The bill was full of drafting errors and millions of dollars of mistakes and came with one new wrinkle. This time around, Walker wants to be President of the United States of America.

To see how his presidential aspirations are hurting Wisconsin, just look at how we match up next to other states. While Minnesota invested hundreds of millions of dollars of their billion dollar budget surplus in public schools, Walker made deep cuts due to his self-inflicted $2.2 billion deficit. While Republican governors are taking hundreds of millions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid, Walker stubbornly refuses to accept help from the very federal government he hopes to one day lead. Now, with our transportation budget at a standstill, Walker has foolishly threatened to veto efforts to raise any transportation related revenues to pay for our major road projects, opting instead to let our road conditions deteriorate.

While we breezed through the budget process underfunding our K-12 public schools, cutting the UW System by $250 million, freezing the Stewardship bonding program and putting at risk critical support to individuals with disabilities, the public display of fiscal irresponsibility suddenly stopped a few weeks ago.   

So, what’s the hold up? Would it surprise you if I said Milwaukee? The major items still up for debate include the Bucks Arena ($500 million) and major road projects such as the Zoo Interchange and an I-94 expansion ($450 million). When they were voting for items that impacted their districts, Republicans had no problem breezing right through the budget process. Yet, now that it comes down to how much they want to invest in Milwaukee, Republicans are holding nearly $1 billion in Milwaukee economic development hostage.

In case you think this is some half-baked conspiracy theory, take for example the Twitter ramblings of Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna). During a series of tweets about transportation funding, Rep. Steineke insinuated Milwaukee is “a drain on the rest of the state.”

You might want to take a moment to read that again.

The second most powerful member of the State Assembly believes the largest city in the state, which is home to two major league sports teams and six Fortune 500 companies, is holding Wisconsin back.

Does all this bickering about Milwaukee sound familiar? Doesn’t it seem like the only time Republicans say they care about Milwaukee is when they are trying to fix us and tell us how to handle our business? For people who supposedly believe in smaller government, Republicans sure do think government can fix a lot of things in Milwaukee.

Take for example the proposed Republican FoodShare program change. Republican legislation actually says you can buy cheddar, but not sharp cheddar cheese with your FoodShare card. Their bill also says you can’t buy shellfish, as if low-income folks are out there feasting on lobster every night of the week. The superiority and the arrogance is condescending.

Have you noticed when Republicans talk about school reform, although we have struggling schools all over Wisconsin, they experiment on Milwaukee kids first? As sure as the sky is blue, you can count on them messing it right up. Just look at the voucher program. While their intent to improve kids’ education was good, their results have not met expectations.

Milwaukee is an amazing city that I love very much. We certainly have our challenges. But, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say, we’d be a lot better off if politicians from outside of Milwaukee would stop meddling in our affairs. Instead, they should treat us like the rest of Wisconsin. Invest in our city and let us manage our business. After all, who knows better what works and what doesn’t for Milwaukee than those who live here every single day.  

Senator Lena C. Taylor represents Milwaukee’s 4th Senate District. To stay in the loop on what’s happening at the Capitol, follow Sen. Taylor on Twitter @SenTaylor.