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September 15, 2017

What would you veto?

by Rep. Dave Considine

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Dave Considine represents the 81st District in the State Assembly. The 81st District includes Baraboo, Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, Portage, and many other communities. His office can be reached at (608) 266-7746 or via email at Rep.Considine@legis.wisconsin.gov

Last week, the Wisconsin Legislature passed the 2017-2019 state budget. Every two years, the Governor proposes his budget, the Joint Finance Committee rewrites it, the Assembly and Senate debate and vote on it, and it goes back to the Governor to sign the budget into law. But before he does, any legislator can write to his office asking him to veto certain provisions, usually only a few. This is the “last stop” to share our suggestions that weren’t taken into account during the budget-writing process. My Democratic colleagues and I have many. I have tried very hard to listen to as many people in my district as possible, and hopefully I’ve been clear about my thoughts on this budget of missed opportunities. Still, I wanted to share with you what’s going to be in my veto letter this year and ask for your input.

The first thing I will ask Governor Walker to veto, as I did last session, is the expansion of the special needs voucher program that was created in the last budget. This time, the budget eliminates the requirement that students in the program at least try a public school first. It would also require public schools to provide IEPs (Individual Education Plans) for special needs students, and then let private schools modify those IEPs however they want. What’s more, private schools would then be paid back by state and local taxpayers for every IEP service provided. This takes precious time and dollars from our public school children. Turning the special needs voucher program into an open invitation for private schools to take advantage of our public school children’s education and funding just isn’t right.

Next, I’d like to see the Governor veto the budget provision that would prevent local communities from using condemnation to complete recreational trails, bike lanes, and pedestrian walkways. This proposal, quietly slipped into the budget at the last moment, is an important tool for our local elected officials to use the right of eminent domain to complete projects deemed to be in the public good. As one constituent put it to me recently, no one likes to use condemnation. But sometimes our local governments need this tool as a last option to finish important projects that can help keep their communities healthy and vital. The state simply has no place in telling our communities what to do, especially not when my colleagues spend so much time talking about local control. Local control means empowering local governments and citizens to make their own choices. We should not be telling individual communities how they should and shouldn’t operate.

Finally, I plan to ask Governor Walker to veto the repeal of the Working Families Tax Credit. This credit is specifically targeted toward low-income families and individuals. Only those earning less than $10,000 per year ($19,000 for married couples) can even qualify for the credit, and only 725 people claim it. The average benefit is $276 per person. This may not seem like much, but the Working Families Tax Credit helps our fellow citizens who need it the most. When you’re making less than $10,000 per year and trying to decide between paying your electric bill and buying food, $276 can make a huge difference. The way to improve and build our communities is to support each other, not to take away programs like the Working Families credit that help those who really need it.

As your state representative, I owe it to you to listen to your perspective, whether we agree or not, and serve your best interests in our legislature. There are many other things I wish weren’t included in this budget. These include increasing the income limit for those in the private voucher program and yet another round of increased transportation borrowing. After much thought and discussion, I plan to ask our governor to use his veto power to remove the three items discussed above from the final draft of the state budget. As this budget of missed opportunities is signed into law, I encourage you to think it over and share your thoughts: what would be in your veto letter?