EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was signed by state Reps. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, and Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.
Wisconsin ranks 44th in the nation in job creation, 45th in wages and dead last in short-term job growth. That is cause for alarm and, more important, action. It requires a state budget that makes dramatic changes to reverse these unacceptable trends. On May 13, we enjoyed the opportunity to meet with a number of residents of Door and Kewaunee counties to discuss the preferred path forward for Wisconsin. What we heard from many of your friends and neighbors is that we can do better. Wisconsinites are looking for leadership to fix the state's problems and to do it in a way that rebuilds the economic security of our middle-class.
In addition, Door and Kewaunee counties face unique challenges as a result of the closure of the Kewaunee Power Station, waiting lists for long-term care services and a school funding formula that fails to recognize the needs of its students. The state's budget must be a document that guides our recovery with critical investments in public education, affordable health care and infrastructure. However what we have in front of us now is a budget full of controversial, extreme provisions and potentially negative long-term consequences.
When Wisconsinites hear about what's in this budget, they overwhelmingly oppose it. And who can blame them? After a historic $1.6 billion cut to public education, approved by Rep. Bies and Sen. Lasee, Gov. Scott Walker's budget gives a $0 increase per-pupil for public school students but provides up to $1,414 per pupil in taxpayer money to private voucher schools.
Very few people are aware that the budget takes money away from public schools across Wisconsin - and raises local taxes - to bail out unaccountable, private schools. That leaves public school kids from Washington Island to Kewaunee high and dry.
Wisconsinites will also pay more for less when it comes to health care. The rejection of federal funds to strengthen BadgerCare means Wisconsin will miss out on $4.4 billion dollars in savings and 10,000 new healthcare jobs. And it insures fewer people at a higher cost. The governor's changes cut nearly 80,000 people off BadgerCare, forcing someone making as little as $12,000 per year to buy private insurance with copays and deductibles for as much as $4,000 per year.
This budget, as it's written, fails to expand Family Care to Northeastern Wisconsin, leaving thousands of area residents on waiting lists and rationing necessary long-term care services to only those who can afford it. This budget fails to adequately address the extremely negative economic impacts of the closure of the Kewaunee nuclear power plant, an economic cornerstone of the community and provider of hundreds of family-supporting jobs.
The voices representing the people of Wisconsin deserve to break through and be heard. That's why Democrats in the Legislature - Democrats like ourselves from Green Bay and Oshkosh - continue to gather input directly from Wisconsin's middle-class families to build a real middle-class budget: one that supports public education, ensures more access to affordable health care and provides Wisconsin families with economic security.
If you believe in a real middle-class budget, and we know many of you do, please consider contacting Rep. Bies and Sen. Lasee to let them know Wisconsin works best when its government works for all of us.