Op Ed

Wisconsin Needs a People’s Budget

Polls, public hearings show support for more K-12 education funding, Medicaid expansion, medical pot.

By - May 8th, 2019 01:54 pm
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Tony Evers. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Tony Evers. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

For too long, big moneyed special interests have dominated policy making in Wisconsin. Finally, we have a governor who puts the people of Wisconsin first.

After attending public hearings across Wisconsin on Governor Tony Evers’ “People’s Budget,” one thing is abundantly clear – Wisconsinites want and deserve the investments this budget makes in our public schools, our health care, our roads, and our communities.

According to a recent Marquette Law School Poll, over half of the residents in the state support increased funding for K-12 public schools, a major increase in funding for special education, accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid, and legalizing medical marijuana.

Through four Joint Finance Committee public hearings held around the state we saw parents, students, teachers, and school district administrators from rural, suburban, and urban communities come out to support Governor Evers’ increased funding of public education. For years, we’ve heard story after story from our public schools about the devastating impact inadequate funding has on our 860,000 public school children – with a special emphasis on the need to increase special education funding which has been stagnant for a decade. Republicans made historic cuts to public education – to the tune of $1.9 billion – and Wisconsin still is not at 2011 funding levels when adjusted for inflation. After eight years of neglecting public schools, Gov. Evers’ budget makes historic investments in education — including $600 million for special education.

Voters sent a message last fall that we wanted to expand and protect health care in Wisconsin. For years, Republicans have refused to do what 36 others states and the District of Columbia have done – accept the federal Medicaid expansion to save our state money, attract billions more in federal funding, and provide affordable health care to more people. The People’s Budget expands Medicaid, saves state taxpayers $324.5 million in state funds, attracts over $1.6 billion in federal funds, and ensures 82,000 Wisconsinites have access to affordable, accessible healthcare. The state savings and additional federal dollars are used to invest in innovative solutions to provide health care to all Wisconsinites. That’s our money we’re sending to Washington, D.C., and it should be coming back to our state.

The People’s Budget is chock-full of provisions that the people of Wisconsin voted for and expect lawmakers in Madison to deliver on. Unfortunately, Republicans are, once again, ignoring the people and our voices. Instead of working with the governor, they would rather scratch the People’s Budget completely and ignore the wishes of the voters. By rejecting this budget, Republicans will jeopardize necessary investments in health care, schools, and communities across our state. The opposition is remarkable and disproportionate to the hundreds of Wisconsinites who testified on the budget to the Joint Finance Committee in support of the People’s Budget. In fact, a constant at the hearings was overwhelming support for the proposed investments in our health outcomes, our local public schools, and our communities. But people in every corner of our state need to continue to mobilize, contact members of the state legislature, and voice our support for this budget and the investments it makes for all Wisconsinites.

When the people of Wisconsin voted for change last election cycle, we voted for someone who would connect the dots and find solutions on important, long-neglected issues. We voted for access to affordable health care, fully funded public schools, smart criminal justice reform and sustainable solutions to our infrastructure challenges prevalent throughout the state. These are common goals that have bipartisan support.

Republicans have an opportunity to come to the table, work with the governor, and deliver bipartisan solutions that are supported by a majority of Wisconsinites. It would be disappointing if Republicans choose political games once again over listening to the priorities and voices of the people of our state.

By Senator Jon Erpenbach, Senator LaTonya Johnson, Representative Chris Taylor and Representative Evan Goyke.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

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