Budgets are about priorities. The Governor laid out his in the proposal he sent to lawmakers. The people responded. From conversations with constituents I composed the following narrative.
Governor, you said our check book is slim: too many bills and not enough to go around. Governor, let’s take a look at where your budget cuts fall.
Meet Ralph who served our country overseas. He has severe PTSD. He is homeless and needs a job. He needs a loan to pay for the apartment security deposit. But Governor, your budget cuts help to homeless veterans and loans for veterans in need.
Ralph stayed briefly with Trudy and Bob. Trudy has advanced cancer. She is very afraid the state will drop her off BadgerCare.
Down the road lives Betsy. She is 84 and has health problems. Times are tough. Betsy enrolled in SeniorCare for $30 a year to help buy her medicines. Governor, you want everyone on SeniorCare to sign up for Medicare Part D. That will cost Betsy $47.50 a month. That hurts.
Betsy worries about her son Brad. He is severely disabled and lives in a small group home with others he’s known for 25 years. Betsy heard news that almost two dozen residents were given eviction notices. The reason - budget cuts in Medicaid.
Up the street are Joe and Melissa, a young couple in college and working full time. Governor, your budget cuts to tech colleges and universities mean less financial aid and higher tuition. Joe’s cousin Reilly can’t go back to college this fall; are Joe and Melissa to face the same? What’s lost when bright, hard working people can’t go to college?
Betsy and Joe went to file their taxes. Under your budget they will pay MORE. Governor, your budget makes changes to the tax system. You cut the tax programs that help our modest income neighbors. But those well off will pay less.
Here lives Sally. She’s been in trouble and needs a job. I talked with Kristen, a gal who helps Sally. Kristen explained how lives are changed with help like the transitional jobs program. But Governor - your budget eliminates the transitional jobs program.
What happens to Sally’s children Mac and Mindy if she is in jail? They will end up in foster care which costs us all. Eau Claire has a great opportunity for Sally: Alternative to Incarceration for Mom’s (AIM) Court will provide the treatment she needs. She can stay clean, out of jail and with her children. Governor, you cut a quarter of the funding for AIM and other drug court programs even though they are proven to save money and lives.
When I look around our neighborhood I see those paying the biggest price for balancing our budget - our children. Not only is $1.7 billion of state aid not available for schools across our state; you even took money from the school breakfast and school milk programs.
School officials told me there will be no more small classes for young children (SAGE); Special Ed, reading teachers and many others will lose jobs; bigger class sizes, fewer class options and electives, and in Plum City no classes for high school students in the afternoon.
Schools in the heart of Wisconsin’s bread basket will lose agriculture programs. Some, like Alma Center will lose band. Governor you even slash the dollars schools use for buses. To get everyone to school, kids will be on the bus before day-break.
While children in our neighborhoods suffer, wealthy people in Milwaukee suburbs will send children to private schools with our money. New charter schools take away millions of dollars our traditional schools desperately need.
Governor, you say we’re broke. But we fixed a budget deficit twice this size two years ago. And I spent late nights adding up the numbers and discovered you actually have MORE to spend than two years ago. With the improving economy there’s $2 billion new dollars in the state’s general fund check book.
Governor, this is not about money. This budget is not lean. It’s just plain mean.
This does not have to happen.
Next week - advice on how to balance the budget.