March 5, 2008
A Column of Personal Opinion
By State Senator Sheila Harsdorf
Recap of Wisconsin Legislative Action
As the Wisconsin Legislature nears the end of its two-year regular legislative session this month, there is a flurry of activity in both the Senate and the Assembly. Wisconsin voters, with a renowned independent streak, have elected a split control legislature, one of eleven in the nation. Getting legislation through both houses requires compromise.
Many noteworthy bills have passed the Democratic-controlled State Senate, including requiring health care coverage of children with autism, reform of financing of our State Supreme Court elections, and expansion of the “No Call” list to cell phones. The Republican-controlled State Assembly likewise has pushed an agenda that includes creating tax incentives for Health Savings Accounts, banning partial birth abortion, and an embrace of portions of the Governor’s economic agenda. Meanwhile, agreements are actively being sought on contentious legislation related to Virtual Schools and the Great Lakes Compact.
Looming over our state is a national economic slowdown that has decreased tax revenue to create a budget shortfall of $655 million. This will require hard budget choices and the Governor is expected to introduce legislation shortly to eliminate the shortfall, as required by law. I believe strongly that this is a time in which state government needs to scale back and not resort to new taxes to fill the budget hole. I disagree with Senate Democratic leadership suggestions that new taxes on businesses, new taxes on hospital patients, and restoration of the Death Tax is a good way to fill the budget hole.
I am pleased that the Legislature did come together to pass some important initiatives on a bipartisan basis. This includes a proposed amendment to ban the Frankenstein Veto, which will be before state voters on the April 1 ballot. A Yes vote will lead to important budget reform that helps restore tax-and-spend accountability. Also passed was BadgerCare Plus, which will ensure access to health care for all Wisconsin children. Wisconsin will have one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation. SeniorCare was extended providing important savings in prescription drug costs for seniors. And, the session opened last year with the most comprehensive Ethics and Election reform in thirty years in the establishment of the Government Accountability Board.
These past two weeks, I have also been holding listening sessions throughout the 10th Senate district. The opinions have been as varied as those we find in the legislature. The challenge is working together to get things done that benefit Wisconsin. Your input is vital. Please contact me by calling 1-800-862-1092 or via email at Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov.