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State Budget: Republican view: Budget bill contains many positive for rural families

10:39 PM, Jun. 18, 2013  |  Comments
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was signed by state Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and eight other rural legislators.

Budgets are about priorities, and as rural legislators, our priority is to make sure that our districts have the resources they need to flourish and grow. This session, we have worked together to ensure that the state budget addresses the needs of all Wisconsinites, not just those of Madison and Milwaukee. We are happy to tell you that rural Wisconsin is being heard.

The first priority for each of us is to preserve our communities and way of life. Over the years, outward migration has negatively affected many parts of rural Wisconsin. We need to keep our friends and neighbors living and working here if our towns and villages are going to thrive. Access to employment opportunities and the educational training to prepare for the workforce must be preserved and enhanced. To that end, we took a strong stand, joining together to write a letter to the Joint Finance Committee asking for increased school funding. Working together paid off - funding will increase by $150 per student per year over the next two years, while property tax increases will be frozen - a big win for seniors and working families.

Access to reliable internet and transportation is also vital for businesses to thrive in rural Wisconsin. As a group, we worked with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the Joint Finance Committee to guarantee adequate funding for rural broadband and roads. In addition to the $500,000 per year that the Governor had allocated for broadband expansion grants, the budget will now include a one-time allocation of $4.3 million to improve internet access for our constituents. At the same time, we were able to secure a 4 percent increase in the General Transportation Aids mileage rate to help maintain our rural road system - a solid investment in the future.

Working families are the core of our communities, and they deserve tax relief. This budget gives it to them in the form of a $651 million tax cut - one of the largest tax cuts in Wisconsin history. We were able to get this tax cut, as well as a more streamlined tax code, while still providing funding for vital programs, such as statewide domestic violence victim services, which received a $1.25 million increase.

Agriculture, too, was an area that we worked to improve in the budget. Responding to the concerns of numerous constituents, we worked to remove the foreign land ownership provision from the budget. Wisconsin farmland belongs to Wisconsin farmers, and we want to make sure that it stays that way for future generations. Additionally, we were able to restore the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant program, which has been of great help to small family farmers.

The budget now leaves the hands of the Joint Finance Committee and goes to the Assembly, where it will be taken up for a vote in the third week of June. We can assure you that we will continue to work with our colleagues and leadership to preserve these changes and make certain that we pass a fiscally responsible budget. This two-year spending plan sets the right priorities and protects essential services so that we can grow our rural economies and create family-supporting jobs. There is no greater honor than representing the citizens of rural Wisconsin, and we will continue to work hard to make sure that our communities are the best places to live, work and raise our families.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
572 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
22%
850 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1011 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1268 votes

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