December 22, 2011
neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost
importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and
your family are listed below.
A Christmas Carol
The Nutcracker Ballet
Now through December 26
"The Nutcracker" is a
dazzling journey to a magical land where dolls, toys and snowflakes come
to life under the direction of Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable score,
performed live by the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra and Milwaukee
Children’s Choir. For additional information or to purchase tickets,
Family Free Day at
Cool Kite Festival
January 1 from
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Veterans Park (MAP)
1010 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
As the New Year approaches, let us reflect on the past year and the direction Wisconsin is now headed.
As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.
Walker's Wisconsin--One Year In
January 3, 2012, will mark the one-year anniversary of Governor Walker taking over the state of Wisconsin. His broken promises and misplaced priorities have pushed Wisconsin in the wrong direction. Few can remember a time when those in power were this divisive and promoted an agenda that was this extreme.
Below we will take a look at just how our community and state have been harmed by the Walker administration's radical policies and devastating cuts in the areas of jobs, education, health care, public transit, the environment, accountability and transparency, and taxes and investment in our communities.
JOBS & ECONOMY
Governor Walker has also held two special jobs sessions, which were both complete failures as they focused on corporate giveaways, producing little to no jobs. His inability to create job growth over the past year has left Wisconsin ranked 43rd in the nation for job growth. See the chart below from the nonpartisan organization BadgerStat detailing Wisconsin's job growth through October.
Chart Courtesy of BadgerStat
The governor was quick to use the
monthly jobs figures to boast with at a press conference in June when they
showed gains, primarily in seasonal tourism jobs. Since his budget plan took effect in July, the numbers have
fallen every month. Now Governor Walker refuses to take responsibility
and ownership for this economic drought.
Chart Courtesy of BadgerStat
Our children took the brunt of Walker's cuts this year as he slashed funding from our neighborhood schools to give away our taxpayer dollars to special interests and corporations. Under the Republican budget approximately $1.6 billion was stripped from education statewide. These decimating cuts hit some communities harder than others and have been especially detrimental to children in Milwaukee and the surrounding area. To see how much our children's education and the funding for neighborhood schools were cut in the budget, according to the Department of Public Instruction and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, please see the chart below:
The effect of Governor Walker's cuts to education and his continued allegiance to private and religious schools over our neighborhood schools can already be seen across the state. Below are results from the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrator's annual survey:
Similar results can also be seen right here in our own community. Here is how Milwaukee County's 18 school districts have been negatively impacted by Governor Walker's sweeping education cuts:
Governor Walker’s misplaced priorities
have left our children and educators struggling to get out of an
impossible situation. His actions have also jeopardized the future
economic success of our state and limited opportunities for our
children. Educating our children is not like riding a bike. If you fall
off you cannot just get back up again and ride. Our children only have one shot at
early education and developing the skills they need to succeed.
Unfortunately, Governor Walker did just that this year, beginning with his budget proposal. Nearly $500 million was cut from Medicaid programs, which is hurting families in every community throughout Wisconsin. Notable health care cuts are listed below:
The Governor continued his extreme agenda announcing an additional $554 million in cuts this past October. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has estimated that almost 65,000 Wisconsinites, including 30,000 pregnant women and children, will lose their current BadgerCare health care coverage. Another group that will be disproportionately affected by these additional Medicaid cuts are people suffering from chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Chronic and life-threatening illnesses often leave individuals unable to work, causing them to exhaust their lifesavings and unable to cover their medical expenses without the use of Medicaid.
Wisconsin's vital health care programs ensure that our families and neighbors are able to receive quality, affordable health care to prevent costly emergency room visits. These programs also help keep loved ones out of nursing homes and in-patient facilities, saving taxpayers money.
Walker's Republican legislators are pushing legislation to repeal current comprehensive sex education standards. According to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, approximately 87% of Wisconsin voters support requiring comprehensive sex education instruction that includes information about both abstinence and contraception.
The positive impact of comprehensive sex education on Wisconsin's young adults can also be seen right here in our neighborhood. According to the Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee's teen birthrate has dropped dramatically for the second year in a row, from 46.73 births per 1,000 teens in 2008 to 35.68 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.
Governor Walker opted to push massive highway expansion projects this year rather than support our local roads and public transit. According to a WISPIRG study release earlier this year, Wisconsin taxpayers will be footing roughly $2 billion to fund questionable and unnecessary transportation projects in the Republican budget rather than putting those funds towards local roads and public transit. In addition to a loss of $77 million in shared revenue, the following communities can expect cuts to state transportation funds in the amounts listed below:
Cudahy = $98,181
Milwaukee = $2,546,188
Oak Creek = $164,524
Saint Francis = $65,933
South Milwaukee = $90,118
Governor Walker's cuts to public transit and our local roads had an even greater domino effect in our community as it led to the end of the new Regional Transit Authorities and high-speed rail. There are also communities in Wisconsin that are now facing the very real possibility of being forced to shut down their transit systems.
Having a well-supported public transit system is vital to maintaining and creating jobs in our community. According to the Milwaukee County Transit systems, on average 140,000 rides are provided daily. Of these, 39% are commuters traveling to and from work, another 5% are heading to job interviews, and 11% are students making their way to classes to learn valuable skills for their future careers.
Wisconsin has a long tradition of protecting our natural resources, as they are not just a part of our landscape, but a part of who we are as stewards of this great state. This year, Governor Walker and Republican legislators pushed an agenda that has left our state's natural resources vulnerable. Many of these changes were instituted under the most recent budget, including:
This agenda to place polluters over people continued with the introduction of Senate Bill 326, legislation that undoes important environmental protections that keep our air clean and our water safe for drinking and recreation. The following concerns can be found in this environmentally harmful legislation that threatens our natural resources and families by:
There is an undeniable link between a healthy environment and sustainable economic growth. Therefore, we should not allow polluters to bully us into making a false choice between conservation and economic growth.
TAXES & SPENDING
The Republican budget broke significant fiscal promises by increasing spending by over $1 billion compared to the last budget, raising taxes and fees by over $180 million, and raiding $411 million from segregated funds.
Not only did Governor Walker and Republican legislators increase spending and raise taxes, but they did it on the backs of Wisconsin workers, middle-class families, children and seniors rather than having all Wisconsinites share the burden. This current budget also favors CEOs and big corporations by creating a $196 million corporate slush fund and $2.3 billion in tax giveaways.
ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY
Wisconsinites have sought to preserve accountability and transparency in our government since the days of fighting Bob La Follette. This is illustrated by our laws requiring open meetings and records, thoughtful checks and balances in our government structures, and significant disclosure for political campaign contributions.
Governor Walker and his rubberstamp Legislature began their attack on these common sense protections with their first special session. The following are just some of the bills authored and passed by Republican legislators during that session, reversing Wisconsin's progress in ensuring open government:
Following these bills, Governor Walker and Republican legislators continued to send Wisconsin in the wrong direction by pushing through the Republican budget, which was brimming with special interest giveaways, sneaking nearly 80 non-fiscal policy items into what was promised to be a purely fiscal document. The following provisions are some of the most egregious:
My Democratic colleagues and I introduced amendments to remove such backwards provisions from the budget in order to ensure Wisconsin maintains its tradition of clean, open and transparent government. Unfortunately, Republicans voted down these amendments with little consideration for Wisconsin’s traditions.
In addition to placing the wish lists of special interests ahead of working families when pushing his legislative agenda, Governor Walker and his rubberstamp legislators have also tried a variety of methods to keep the doors of the Capitol locked to the public, by doing the following:
We need more accountability and transparency, not less. I will continue doing what I can to promote good government policies, not follow in Governor Walker's footsteps by forwarding legislation and policies aimed at keeping our neighbors in the dark.
Disappointing DOT Decision
Last Friday, December 16, the
Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) announced its decision
to ignore the thousands of cycle enthusiasts, commuters, and business
leaders that advocated for a bike and pedestrian lane on the Hoan Bridge
as part of the bridge restoration project scheduled to begin in 2012.
Capitol Access Policies Remain Unclear
Last week, Governor Walker and his administration implemented a new policy to prevent Wisconsinites from using their First Amendment right to free speech and to freely assemble. This policy stipulated that groups of four or more people would need to obtain permits for all activity and displays in state buildings, including the Capitol, and apply for those permits at least 72-hours in advance. Additionally, families and groups of four or more could also be required to pay a fee or obtain liability insurance or a bond before getting a permit.
Governor Walker and his Department of Administration appointees were rather vague in the language used to draft the policy. It is expected that Capitol Police will be responsible for determining who is in violation of this policy and what action should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Because of the unclear language and the inability of the Department of Administration and Capitol Police to list examples of what does or does not violate the provision limiting access to the Capitol, many people may unknowingly be in violation of this order and be forced to face the consequences.
While the rules have been slightly modified, serious concerns remain over the cost barriers and the potential for selective, or even biased, enforcement.
Our governor should be encouraging input and participation from his neighbors, not seeking retribution and suppressing those that may disagree with his policies. We must work together to encourage a more open government and increase accessibility to our elected officials, rather than adopting policies that aim to restrict First Amendment rights.
If Governor Walker and his administration continue to pushing for these policies of exclusion, it will only be a matter of time before a lawsuit is filed against the state.
Making Our Roads Safer with Ignition Interlock Devices
We are now in the holiday season, which tends to be one of the most dangerous times of the year for alcohol-related driving offenses. This should be a time of celebration with family and friends, not tarnished by a tragedy resulting from drunk driving. Our family, friends and neighbors cannot afford to wait any longer for stronger drunk driving laws. Wisconsin’s drivers and passengers deserve greater peace-of-mind while on the road.
Like many in Wisconsin, I understand
the tragic cost of the drunk driving epidemic that has touched all
corners of our state. Too often drunk drivers cause accidents that kill
or injure our family, friends and neighbors, shattering lives and
tearing the fabric of our communities. We must do more to end these
preventable tragedies and safeguard our loved ones.
This legislation strengthens our lax drunk driving laws by stipulating that all first-time convicted drunk drivers have an ignition interlock device placed in their vehicle. Currently, ignition interlock device are only installed in vehicles of first-time offenders with blood alcohol content of .15 or higher and repeat offenders. This life-saving technology has been proven to reduce drunk driving recidivism by 67 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
This legislation is a step in the right direction. I will continue to work with advocates and law enforcement to untangle and improve Wisconsin's drunk driving laws.
I will also be hosting a press event
with Mothers Against Drunk Driving on Thursday, December 29 in Milwaukee
to discuss the importance of this legislation for our community and
Intern at the Capitol
I currently have an opening for a
legislative intern in my Madison office. A legislative internship is a
great opportunity for students and recent graduates to learn more about
the legislative process while gaining practical work experience.
Attention High School Juniors and Seniors: Apply to Senate Scholars Today
The Senate Scholars Program is an intensive week-long education program offered by the Wisconsin State Senate. This is a wonderful opportunity for Wisconsin youth to view the role of the Legislature in democracy first-hand and gain experience in the areas of policy development, constituent relations and processing legislation. Senate Scholars will also have the change to work closely with senators, legislative staff and University of Wisconsin faculty. Admission to the program is highly competitive and limited to 33 academically exceptional high school juniors and seniors from across the state. Applications are due on January 2, 2012.
2012 Senate Scholar Sessions:
If you have additional questions about the program or the application process, I encourage you to call the Legislative Training Officer in charge of the program, Jacob Clark, at (608) 266-2610.
See You in the Neighborhood
I created a survey that I
am distributing to neighbors asking about various issues that are
important to them, our community and our state. I have been
distributing the survey door-to-door throughout our community and will
continue doing so through December. To return the survey, simply
fold it, tape it, and affix a stamp.
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues. Hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!
Know Your Voting Rights
Scott Walker and Republican legislators recently enacted some of the most restrictive ID requirements for voters in the country. While they have been working to silence Wisconsin's voters, I have been working hard to keep Wisconsin's voters informed of their rights. I have created a simple handout answering some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding Wisconsin's new voter restrictions.
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