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(608)266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 |




Memorial Day Parade
May 25th, 9:00 am

Corner of King and 5th St.

17th Annual Walk MS
May 25th, 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
La Crosse Center South Hall
When you participate in Walk MS, the funds you raise give hope to the more than 10,000 children, women and men in Wisconsin living with multiple sclerosis. 

Register at or 800-242-3358.


Ice: Ambigous Clarity Exhibit
May 30th, 12:00 pm

Pump House Regional Arts Center

Photographer Lee Jackson takes abstract images found in nature to evoke a feeling of mysterious familiarity.


Noon Tunes: Bill Miller
June 14th, 11:30 am - 1:30 pm

Riverside Park
Noon Tunes is a free, weekly live music series that will take place on Thursdays in Riverside Park from June 14th through September 27th.

The Chamber Concert at the Weber Center
June 25th, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Weber Center for the Performing Arts
Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster Frank Almond will make his LSO debut with a complete performance of Antonio Vivaldiís timeless masterpiece, "The Four Seasons."



State Capitol
Room 307 West
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708


(608) 266-5780
Toll Free:

(888) 534-0095


Friends and Neighbors,

This week, the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) took up two major issue for members of our community: education and healthcare. I've heard from so many of my constituents over the past few months about how cuts to these programs will negatively impact their families.

Republican legislators proposed and passed a highly controversial public instruction omnibus motion, which included an expansion of the school choice voucher program at the cost of public schools. The proposal siphons approximately $48 million from public schools to fund voucher programs over the next two years. This creates an educational system which forces public and private schools to compete against each other for state tax dollars, rather than create an education system that provides an equal education to all kids as our state constitution calls for.

Republican legislators also refused the commonsense proposal to accept federal funding for BadgerCare. Despite continued attempts by JFC Democrats, Republicans refused to expand the state's BadgerCare program, allowing for Wisconsin to take approximately $400 million in federal funds over the next two years.

Continue reading this week's newsletter for a more in-depth update on JFC's budget actions, in addition to important information from our community and state.



Best Wishes,

Jill Billings
State Representative
95th Assembly District





This week, the Joint Committee on Finance met to vote on proposals for education funding and health care for seniors and struggling families.


The most controversial subject up for discussion was education funding. Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee introduced an omnibus motion on education, lumping together significant issues like overall school funding and voucher expansion, thereby failing to give each proposal significant individual consideration. Gov. Walker's budget proposed cutting funding to K-12 public education by $127 million over the biennium. Instead of completely restoring funding, Republican JFC members voted to divert funding that would normally go to public school students, and give it to unaccountable voucher schools.

As part of this proposal, Republicans voted to gradually eliminate the cap on voucher enrollment over a period of 10 years. This year, the enrollment total can increase to 1 percent of the student population in each district. The allowed enrollment percentage would increase annually until it would be removed entirely. In the next two years, approximately $48 million could be diverted from public schools to go to private unaccountable voucher schools. A different choice was offered by Joint Finance Democrats that would have provided an additional $300 per pupil, fully restoring funding taken in previous budgets to our public schools.

In addition to increases on traditional voucher spending, special needs students could also receive taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend a private school, which is estimated to cost approximately $12,000 per student. Although this seems like a good idea, Disability Rights groups oppose this measure. First, because private schools donít have to comply with the same standards of care as public schools. Second, special needs programming funding to private schools not only reduces resources a public school can provide to its students, but leaves students vulnerable to attending a charter or voucher school that doesnít have the training or proper resources to educate them.

Republicans' actions in the JFC go against Wisconsinites' opinions on public education spending. According to a recent Marquette Poll, 70 percent of Wisconsinites oppose more cuts to public schools. Not only are cuts to public schools harmful and unnecessary for our economy, but they donít represent the views of our constituents.

Medicaid Funding

Repeatedly over the past year, Democrats have been calling for our state to accept federal funding for BadgerCare. Wisconsin is one of the only Midwestern states that has not accepted federal funding for its state Medicaid program. States with Republican governors -- like Indiana, Michigan, and Iowa -- all put aside political differences and expanded Medicaid for the health of their state.

Estimates indicate that, if Wisconsin accepted federal funds, it could save the state $400 million over the next two years. This should be a welcome move to all legislators in a state that faces a $2.2 billion budget deficit. Not only would federal funds help to avoid a number of budget cuts and offset a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, but it would allow our state to restore BadgerCare coverage for our struggling low-income families. During JFC debate, Democrats once again called for Republicans to accept federal funding, and were repeatedly shot down.

Accepting federal BadgerCare funding is a commonsense proposal that could only serve to benefit our state. Rejecting these funds demonstrates yet another irresponsible and senseless move by Republican legislators, and a continued move by our Governor to put his presidential ambitions before our people.

We urge Republican legislators to accept Medicaid funding and bring our federal tax dollars back to the state of Wisconsin.


Over the past few months, thousands from the La Crosse area alone signed on to the Democrats' "Save SeniorCare" petition. That petition, combined with voices from around the state that stood up against SeniorCare cuts, was heard by the Republicans.

As you may know, Gov. Walker initially proposed a reduction of $15 million to SeniorCare, thereby forcing seniors to enroll in the costly Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

Thankfully, due to the actions of informed community members like you, funding for our valuable SeniorCare program was restored.





This week, two school groups from the La Crosse area visited the State Capitol! 4th grade students in Wisconsin traditionally learn about the country and state's governmental structure.

It is great to see Wisconsin's 4th grade students learning about our state's political history.





On Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day -- a time to remember and honor the many servicemen and women who gave their lives protecting our freedoms.

There are many events going on around our state to celebrate Memorial Day, including the Memorial Day parade right here in La Crosse:

La Crosse Memorial Day Parade
Date: May 25, 2015
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: Intersection of King and 5th St, La Crosse

I look forward to seeing members of the La Crosse community at the parade next week!




Last week Rep. La Tonya Johnson and I introduced the Safe Harbor Bill, which provides a "safe harbor," to victims of child sex trafficking by eliminating the crime of child prostitution from state statutes and requiring child welfare agencies to investigate all cases of child sexual exploitation.

Listen to my interview with La Crosse public radio on Safe Harbor.

The bill prohibits the charging of a minor with the crime of prostitution. By adopting a Safe Harbor law, Wisconsin will no longer conflict with the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which treats coerced children as victims, even if they have engaged in criminal prostitution activity. Wisconsin would also become the twenty-third state to introduce Safe Harbor for minors, joining Midwestern states including Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan. The bill also aligns the discrepancy in current Wisconsin statutory rape and child enticement provisions which declare children unable to consent to sexual activity.

Child victims of human sex trafficking are just that -- victims -- and should not be treated like criminals for actions that are beyond their control. These victims are in need of a safe shelter from their trafficker and appropriate services so they can start reclaiming their lives. The physical and emotional trauma caused by trafficking is extremely complex and it is imperative that we provide these kids the opportunity to heal and reenter their communities.

Human trafficking has been documented in over half of Wisconsin's 72 counties. Signing the Safe Harbor Bill into law will move Wisconsin a huge step forward in combating human trafficking in our state and country.

The La Crosse Task Force to Eradicate Modern Slavery has been invaluable in our region on this issue, and in the introduction of this bill. In La Crosse, the task force has worked to implement advocacy activities, mobilize the community against this issue, and provide support to victims of human trafficking.





Did you know that May is Foster Care Awareness Month? National Foster Care Awareness month is meant to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care.

Nearly 6,500 children and youth live in Foster Care in Wisconsin, which takes a broad network of dedicated individuals to make a difference in their lives. According to a report by WXOW-La Crosse, La Crosse County is in dire need of foster parents. In the county, there are nearly 200 children placed in out-of-home care, and only 80-100 licensed foster parents.

Click here to read more about the foster care issue in La Crosse.

To learn more about National Foster Care Awareness Month, or to register to be a foster parent, visit:



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