Tuesday October 15, 2019

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First Glance at Governor Evers’ Budget

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 06 March 2019
in Wisconsin

tony-evers-budget-2019Sen. Smith reviews the policies included in Gov. Tony Evers’ first budget, presented to the Legislature last Thursday, including broadband expansion, nonpartisan redistricting reform, education and transportation funding, and Medicaid expansion.


MADISON - Governor Tony Evers presented his first budget to the Legislature on Thursday evening last week. It was a uniquely crafted budget. It contained encouraging policy for Wisconsin’s future. And many of the Governor’s budget provisions were long overdue.

The Governor’s comments highlighted his goal to present the people’s budget to the Legislature: “It’s about creating a Wisconsin that works for everyone — a Wisconsin for us. This isn’t the Tony Evers’ budget, the Democratic budget, the speaker’s budget, or the Republican budget — this is the people’s budget. And it’s one that we crafted together.”

This was a very unique budget address. During the Governor’s speech, he presented a video about the process he used for developing the people’s budget. The video showed footage of public budget listening sessions throughout December in Green Bay, La Crosse, Wausau and Milwaukee. This was the first time a new Governor hosted listening sessions while crafting his budget for introduction.

Much of the budget was exactly what the Governor laid out in his campaign, but there were many policies he included that were from the feedback he received at the listening sessions. Governor Evers’ budget was specially crafted from a uniquely collaborative process.

Many of the different policies in the budget were encouraging for Wisconsin’s future -- for years we’ve seen devastating cuts to public schools, our universities, unsustainable borrowing and a Wisconsin that has lagged behind while the nation recovered. New ideas are needed if we are going to make Wisconsin a national leader again.

The Governor’s plan to add $78 million for broadband expansion grants is a massive increase from the $16 million adopted in the previous budget. Broadband expansion is arguably one of the most important budget provisions for our rural communities.

The Governor also defines broadband speed as 25 megabytes while downloading and 3 megabytes while uploading. This change will ensure rural communities truly receive “broadband” internet so we can fully participate in the digital age and not be left behind.

Nonpartisan redistricting reform was also included in the Governor’s budget. We need to look toward the future. Voters should choose their elected officials, not the other way around. This proposal is supported by a wide margin of citizens. It was no wonder the Governor included it in the people’s budget.

For years, Republicans have stripped away essential voters’ rights in Wisconsin. The Governor’s inclusion of automatic voter registration is a good first step for reversing the undemocratic policies of the last 8 years and starting a new chapter of voter rights expansion in Wisconsin.

There were additional provisions in the Governor’s budget that are long overdue.

When Governor Evers served as the Superintendent of Public Schools, he offered his Fair Funding for Our Future plan time and time again. Each time, Republicans punted on fixing the inequalities in our school funding formula. Republicans put politics first and kids last. Our children have suffered far too long from inaction. Now is the time to finally fulfill our constitutional duty to provide equal public education across Wisconsin by accepting the Governor’s plan.

jeff-smithFour budgets in a row, the Republicans kicked the can down the road by irresponsibly borrowing our way into a transportation crisis. Although I have reservations about some aspects of the Governor’s transportation plan, I do give him credit for finally offering ideas to fix the problem.

Since 2014, Republican ideology prevented Wisconsin from joining 37 other states to expand Medicaid, costing Wisconsin $1.1 billion in additional health care funding. It’s a no-brainer to finally accept the Medicaid expansion money for Wisconsin.

This is just the start -- we have a long way to go before the budget bill becomes law. The Governor’s unique way of crafting his budget deserves praise. His forward-looking budget is a sight for sore eyes. It’s great to finally see a budget include many of the things we’ve been waiting far too long see.

Republicans plan to dismiss the people’s budget outright. As we continue this process, Republicans and Democrats will need to look past old ways of saying “no” to each other and find new ways to say “yes” for Wisconsin.

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You Really Believe That?!?

Posted by Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert lives in Howard and is a Partner in the Green Bay Progressive. Mem
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on Sunday, 24 February 2019
in Wisconsin

woman-surpriseOur Laura Kiefert introduces her new blog with a piece about the crazy things you’ll hear if you actually talk to one of the Trump believers who hang out at our senior centers and listen only to Fox "News".


GREEN BAY, WI - There’s a person who has played an important role in my life whose beliefs regarding politics and religion differ from my own. I am a progressive, liberal Democrat. She is not. We had previously agreed “not to go there”. However, last night, we did. What she told me left me wondering, “How in the world could anyone possibly believe such ridiculous shit?”

Among the beliefs she revealed were:

  • Planned Parenthood intentionally performs abortions in order to harvest and sell baby body parts for large profits.
  • Baby body parts that aren’t sold are cannibalized by Democrats who support abortion.
  • Hillary Clinton has had 57 people shot in the back of the head to cover up the Clinton’s crimes.
  • George H.W. Bush was executed years earlier and the coffin at his recent funeral was empty.
  • George W. and Jeb Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama were served indictments at the funeral and are already being held at Guantanamo Bay, which was currently rebuilt to accommodate them.
  • All the above were served indictments at George H.W. Bush’s funeral. Sightings of these people, including Obama’s recent attendance at the basketball game in Durham, N.D. were staged using body doubles.
  • Hillary and Bill Clinton are the worst criminals ever in American history.
  • The only mainstream media that can believed is Fox News and any facts provided by anyone aligned with the Democratic Party are fake.
  • Trump is a Christian who attends church regularly.
  • The Democratic Party is evil and full of haters.
  • Trump is a brilliant businessman who has made billions of dollars and has never filed bankruptcy.
  • Republicans won’t cut Social Security or Medicare, they just need to cut Welfare and Food Stamps for the overwhelming number of people who need to get a job, who don’t deserve it, and who either sell or give what they get from government programs away.
  • Although she lives on Social Security, gets Medicare and lives in a rent assisted senior building, she firmly opposes Socialism because she doesn’t want the government involved in her life.
  • Trump is much smarter than Democrats think and he has a plan in place to take down the entire “Deep State” that includes the CIA, the FBI and Nation Security, all who have been complicit in covering up the Clinton crimes.

While looking on the Internet for information to repudiate her, I ran across several YouTube videos published by a Psychic Medium named Utsavo that elaborated the claims we had discussed, as well as claims of aliens, UFO’s and multiple conspiracy theories. I concluded that must be her main source of information. See: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk8GhT9HVdf1_s9cxtvRFXw

laura-kiefertI texted her thirteen links to reputable sources with facts disputing the above outrageous assertions, which I assume she never bothered to open. She responded with a simple text, “I vote for whoever I feel will benefit me personally.”

I’m left wondering why people believe such stupid shit.

I suppose since we both strongly identify with opposite sides of the political spectrum, we each think the other is willfully ignoring the facts and firmly believes our own facts are true and the other’s are false. We both probably think the other is either ignorant, ill-informed disingenuous, or nuts. At first, I thought she was trying to yank my chain. Numerous times I asked things like, “Are you kidding me”, or “You can’t be serious” or “Where did you get that?”

Her responses were were all in the affirmative. “Yes” or “You betcha” or “ I sure do.” To say the least, I was flabbergasted by her admissions and I admit by the end of our conversation I had concluded she had taken a head-first dive off the crazy bridge into the Looney River.

I am a person who relies heavily on science. I read a lot, question everything, and base my beliefs on facts, reason, critical thinking and common sense. It’s impossible for me to comprehend why anyone wants to disagree with science or what is obviously true and instead trust psychic tabloid nonsense.

I know there are people that trick themselves into believing that the facts aren't relevant and the modern media landscape seems to be amplifying the retreat from facts. Therefore, making it harder and harder to determine what the real truth is. I understand we now live in a world where people promote red facts and blue facts, and these biased motivated-reasoning processes fuel political conflict. But, blocking out information we disagree with, through social media echo chambers, reading partisan news, or only surrounding ourselves with friends who agree with us, just leads to promoting conspiracy theories that makes matters worse.

So, I’m done with making arguments to convince others to stop drinking the Kool-aid. It’s a waste of time and I think it’s more probable that talking about these issues cause people to double down and become even more stubborn and radical.

Bottom line, there are people who will believe what they want to believe and disregard the rest. The problem is when people dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts their opinion, the result is, well, the Trump Administration.

****

Read more of Laura's blogs at https://laurakiefert.com/blog/

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Sen. Jennifer Shilling: "Close corporate loopholes and treat homeowners fairly"

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling lives in La Crosse with her husband and two children. She curr
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 21 February 2019
in Wisconsin

menardsWe need to build a brighter future for working families, seniors, small-business owners and family farms in Wisconsin. The wealthy and corporations have had enough tax relief.


LA CROSSE, WI - Wisconsin families are working harder than ever. But many are finding that no matter how much they sacrifice or how many hours they put in, they live every day on the verge of economic and financial insecurity. The burden of rising student loan debt, the outsourcing of jobs, and the ever increasing costs of health insurance and child care are making it difficult for families to get ahead.

Despite these challenges, we know a path to success, and we don’t have to look far for solutions. It starts with restoring tax fairness for the middle class, closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, and eliminating tax breaks for corporations that lay off workers and ship jobs out of state.

farm-familyGov. Tony Evers has made it clear that his state budget will include real tax relief for hardworking families by rolling back Republican tax giveaways to millionaires and corporations. At a time when infant care costs more than tuition at a University of Wisconsin school, Republicans continue to defend tax giveaways for corporations that don’t pay a single dollar in income taxes.

Think about that for a second: Corporations can claim a tax credit that isn’t tied to job creation, and they pay nothing in income taxes. These are the same corporations that rely on Wisconsin’s workforce, roads, hospitals and community services. Yet this credit lets them avoid their fair share of investments in our state.

jennifer-shillingAnother loophole that has plagued municipalities of all sizes across the state is the dark store loophole. This loophole allows large corporate retailers to shift their tax liability onto Main Street businesses and local homeowners. It’s one of the reasons we saw a jump in property taxes last year.

Gov. Evers has vowed to close this loophole in his budget and prioritize tax fairness for seniors and working families.

Our economy works best when we level the playing field, strengthen communities, support local businesses and expand economic opportunities.

As we seek to build a brighter future for everyone in our state, Democrats are focused on the important issues at hand: sustainable tax relief for working families, seniors, small-business owners and family farms. It’s refreshing to be in a new era with a governor who is listening to the people and working to make our state a place where the next generation wants to live, work and raise a family.

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Part Three: Water is Precious

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 20 February 2019
in Wisconsin

hicap-residentsThird of three columns describing the importance of water in Wisconsin. Conserving water by limiting high capacity wells, preventing the destruction of wetlands and reinvesting in science at the DNR are easy ways we can keep drinking water clean.


MADISON, WI - Water is cheap. Fixing water quality problems is expensive. Protecting our water before polluting it is less expensive. We can take steps now to preserve our cheapest most precious resource. Changing our perceptions about water use, using nature to help us preserve water and reinvesting in science are easy ways to show how an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In the last two columns, I discussed how water sustains our lives and how important it is for our economic prosperity. This week I will offer simple, but critical ways we can invest in water, our most precious resource.

Most of Wisconsin is lucky to have immediate access to clean water whether it’s from our private wells or from our municipal water utilities. Because water is cheap, most people don’t think about conserving it. Think about that. Something must be done differently to motivate people to conserve water even when capacity is not threatened. Where there are private wells there is more awareness of conserving simply because the owner is the manager.

hicap-wellPrivately owned high capacity wells play a big role for Wisconsin’s water conservation. Each high capacity well can pump up to 70 gallons of water per minute, or up to 100,000 gallons per day. High concentrations of high capacity wells in a single aquifer can cause serious problems for our drinking water. As water levels drop from overuse, oxygen can breakdown sulfides and expose arsenic to be leached into the water table. Unassuming landowners with private wells are at risk of polluted drinking water if we don’t take a hard look at conservation when considering new high capacity well permits.

We can invest in nature as our defender against contaminated water. Wetlands are nature’s best water filters. In 1985 Wisconsin completed a wetland inventory and found 5.3 million acres of wetlands left in Wisconsin. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, based on an evaluation of wet soils, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimated Wisconsin was home to approximately 10 million acres of wetlands at one time. As of 1985, we lost 47% of our wetlands.

Properties with wetlands tend to be priced below market value and have always been an easy target for farmers and developers. Farmers learned quickly that wetlands were essential to preserving productive soils. Business developers have been slower to learn.

Wetland mitigation allows developers to create new wetlands or rehabilitate existing wetlands if damage to naturally-occurring wetlands is “unavoidable.” Wetlands form from necessity. They are nature’s way of storing water and preventing flooding.

In recent years, floodwaters have ripped through our western Wisconsin coulees causing incredible damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges. Floods churn up contaminated sediments and sweep them into our surface waters and eventually into our groundwater too. Protecting and enhancing wetlands is one of the easiest things we can do today to keep our water clean and lesson the damage from powerful floods.

jeff-smithWe need to reinvest in science too. Wisconsin’s DNR scientists have been under attack for the last 8 years. In 2011, Act 10 forced a mass exodus of scientists and other dedicated public servants from state government. Former Governor Scott Walker sent 57 pink slips to DNR employees on Earth Day 2015, of all days. In the 2017-19 budget, Republicans cut 43 more positions and eliminated the Division of Science Services during a “reorganization” of the agency. All mentions of climate change were scrubbed from DNR publications.

Thankfully, Governor Tony Evers and his new pick for DNR, Secretary Preston Cole are choosing science over ignorance. Sec. Preston Cole’s comment that the DNR will “double down on science in natural resources management” should be a refreshing assurance for Wisconsin. Governor Evers’ recent announcement to help local governments with $40 million to replace lead services lines is another example of his new approach to protecting the public’s water.

As we start to reinvest in our state’s ability to keep water clean, I’ll need your help. It’ll take all of us to educate our neighbors, family and friends about new efforts to keep Wisconsin’s water clean. Water may be cheap, but if we lose sight of how precious it is, we will pay far more in the long run.

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Erpenbach Applauds Medical Marijuana Proposal

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
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on Tuesday, 19 February 2019
in Wisconsin

medical-marijuanaWe should legalize medical marijuana, as an ever growing list of organizations and individuals support decriminalization for medical use.


MADISON - Since 2009, I have been the author of legislation to legalize marijuana for medical use. In that time I have heard heartbreaking stories from people across the state who are using marijuana to alleviate serious medical conditions; People breaking the law to get their loved ones a medicine that works.

Legislators have long been behind the public on this issue. Recent polling showed that 59% of Wisconsinites support the legalization of all marijuana, but broken down into medical use the numbers are even higher.

In addition, thirty States and Washington, D.C., both red and blue, have passed effective medical marijuana programs, and no state has ever sought to repeal it. It is time for Wisconsin to join them in passing these regulations.

jon-erpenbachThe bottom line is that seriously ill patients should not have to break the law to access their medication. Marijuana can provide relief to those suffering from cancer, glaucoma, PTSD, ALS, chronic pain and can even help in the fight against opiate addiction. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014 found that opioid overdose deaths were reduced by 25% in states with an effective medical marijuana law. This is a common-sense solution to a crisis that impacts both urban and rural areas of our state.

There are a multitude of reasons why we should legalize medical marijuana, and an ever growing list of organizations and individuals that support decriminalization for medical use. This proposal will help individuals seeking to alleviate chronic pain in a safe and legal way, and I applaud Governor Evers for listening to the people of Wisconsin.

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