“The State is spending less.” “This budget took a deficit and turned it into a surplus.” “Wisconsin has paid off its debt.” Which of these are true statements regarding the new state budget?
The answer is NONE of the above.
Getting information about what’s happening in Madison is one of the most common complaints of my constituents. The slow summer news cycle allowed writers and readers to begin to catch up on, for example, the plethora of policy unrelated to the budget.
People were friendly but anxious. They’d come to a meeting with local leaders to learn about protecting Arcadia from flooding.
Arcadia is nestled in a beautiful valley. Water from the surrounding hills drains into the Trempealeau River that runs right through town. Next to the river is the sprawling international headquarters of Ashley Furniture.
Ashley’s spokesperson began the recent meeting by sharing jobs created and businesses supported: 4,700 jobs created in western Wisconsin. More than 670 local and regional businesses supported.
“Corporations are not people,” the Black River Falls woman told me. “People in corporations already get a vote and a chance to speak out just like the rest of us. Giving corporations a vote and a chance to speak out means those people are getting two votes. That’s not fair.”
That statement summarized the opinion of three quarters of the fairgoers in Jackson County who chose to stop and vote on the statement “corporations are people.”
“We should amend the constitution to limit money in politics” garnered support from nearly 9 in 10 participants in the voluntary poll. A nearly unanimous 98% of fairgoers voting in the poll agreed with the statement “Every citizen should be encouraged to vote.”
The rain and wind didn’t stop Elaine from coming to the Trempealeau County Fair. She brought the quilt she and her 90-year-old mother finished together.
“It’s special to me,” she told me. “I want to show it off!”
Across Wisconsin folks are picking the best of the flowers, quilts and corn stalks. Youngsters are whipping up tasty treats from scratch. Teens are washing cattle, training horses, and arranging flowers.
“My cell phone doesn’t work at home, so here’s my home number,” I told the constituent. “My home phone is the best way to reach me.”
If you live in rural Buffalo, Eau Claire, Trempealeau, Pierce, or at least eight other northern or western Wisconsin counties you or your neighbors likely have poor cell coverage. A recent analysis of the coverage maps of 5 major firms shows customers in at least 12 Wisconsin counties face a lack of cell coverage.
Most of us in rural counties have adapted. We don’t expect the cell phone to work and we don’t bother calling cell numbers for rural neighbors. But what happens if you pick up the old landline and it’s dead?
When I asked my sister about a cake for her birthday, she smiled and said, “I’d rather have pie … and art.” So we sat down to blueberry pie and then headed off to an art fair.
Wisconsin has over 215 art fairs. The diversity and creativity is limited only by Wisconsin ingenuity which I’ve decided is limitless!
There is no better way to see what a creative human mind and skilled hands can achieve than by observing art and speaking directly to the creators.
“It’s a sad day when political pressures from telephone company lobbyists keep us from working together? It’s frustrating, yet fascinating,” read a recent statement from WiscNet officials.
At issue is the decades old relationship between the University of Wisconsin and WiscNet and whether, despite separating from UW, WiscNet will be allowed to contract with the University to provide internet services.
The internet was developed by researchers and education institutions. The Department of Defense and many universities contributed to its creation. To this day universities share data on super-fast connections created and maintained through cooperative efforts of the universities themselves.
“Two years ago, Wisconsin made tough choices,” wrote Robert from Mondovi. “The deficit was eliminated, costs were controlled and Wisconsin was back on the track to prosperity.”
The Buffalo County man wanted “relief for the hardworking people of Wisconsin”.
With that in mind, I took a close look at state finances and discovered problems. I talked with the Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysts and read their papers. I sharpened my pencil and considered options.
Senators had debated budget passage for nearly eight nonstop hours. In a little over six hours the two-year state budget would be headed to the Governor.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca beckoned me off the Senate floor. “There’s something you need to know,” he said. “Something in the budget no one seems to understand.”
A few of us gathered in a nearby conference room. “There are two ways a private school can get state tax dollars,” Representative Barca explained.
“We want to make things better,” one of the Finance Committee members recently told his colleagues. This Medicaid plan, he said, “Protects taxpayers, strengthens the safety net and lowers total cost to taxpayers.”
What actually happened would cost the state a hundred million more dollars than full Medicaid expansion, drop coverage for 84,000 people and leave almost half a billion of federal dollars on the table in this coming budget.
Only half of those who lost Medicaid will likely ever sign up for private insurance. When they do, their federal cost to taxpayers will be $3,000 more per person than if they had stayed on the Medicaid program.