Democrats call for more public hearings on budget
Hearings should prioritize reaching more Wisconsinites
Madison – Joint Finance Committee Democrats are asking the Co-Chairs of Finance to add public hearings on the budget so more citizens in the state can voice their opinions. Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) sent a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance asking for more hearings in parts of the state where people will be significantly impacted by the state budget and at times that working families can better attend.

“Given the serious consequences that communities will face if the Governor’s budget is passed, we do not believe that four hearings give constituents enough time or accessibility to voice their concerns. As you discuss locations and the number of Joint Committee on Finance public hearings on the 2015-2017 state budget, we ask that you consider adding locations for public hearings in order to give all Wisconsin citizens the opportunity to weigh in,” said Representative Hintz.

Co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance have disclosed they plan to have four public hearings on the state budget, but large swaths of the state will have to travel hours to attend. Democrats on the Committee believe that given the sweeping changes Governor Walker proposed, the public should have the opportunity to more hearings that are held at more convenient times.

“Governor Walker has proposed many dramatic changes that harm the very institutions that have made Wisconsin great. We need to protect our public school system, public lands and the state’s legacy of conservation, the University of Wisconsin System, and access to healthcare for seniors and our most vulnerable citizens. These programs are important and we need to provide an opportunity for more people to be heard,” said Senator Lena Taylor.

The elimination of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, the cuts to k-12 education and UW System, the gutting of the popular SeniorCare program and forgoing federal funds to cover more people with affordable health care are cited as reason for the need for additional hearings.

“K-12 schools see significant cuts in the Governor’s budget with over $127 million in cuts to education funding, and the voucher program which draws funds away from public schools. This is a constituency that deserves the opportunity to voice their opinion at a public hearing when teachers are not in classes and parents are not at work,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach, “As you know, in rural areas of this state high schools are the center of the community. We request at least one public hearing in a rural community high school.”

The Governor expressed he would like to see the state budget quickly passed. The co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance have expressed they will hold just four public hearings on the bill; one in the Milwaukee area, one in the Fox Valley, one in the Platteville area and one in northwestern Wisconsin, likely in the 10th Senate District.

“These cuts will have a direct effect on the economy and quality of life for our people not just next year and the year after but for decades. Our decisions matter in every corner of the state. Our economy is built on the back of our citizens and the hard work and money they have expended building this state,” says Representative Chris Taylor. “Wisconsin deserves better.”