Thursday April 25, 2019

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State Government: The Budget Mosaic

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 Thursday, 28 March 2019
in Wisconsin

wisc-capitol-domeIt’s important to understand the budget from afar, but we learn even more from looking closer to see how everything connects.


MADISON - Connecting dots can be very satisfying -- when it all clicks together our eyes get big, our jaws drop and we become stunned with our newfound knowledge.

The bigger the conclusion, the more satisfying the result. For legislators, much is the same for comprehending the state budget. Pouring over the details and reading the documents line-by-line can be dull, very dull. But when things start to click and make sense, it’s all worth it.

Governor Tony Evers listened to the experiences and values from many different people and put together a budget that represents a large mosaic - tiny little pictures that make up a larger picture. There is value in viewing the mosaic from afar, but there can also be a benefit peering closely at one of the small pictures within to see how it all connects.

meeting-crowdThe other day, when giving a presentation about the budget at one of our listening sessions, a retired assistant district attorney chimed in about criminal justice changes in the state budget. He was concerned about forgetting the seriousness of some crimes. He stressed that sometimes incarceration is the only safe place for some criminals.

This gentleman had a point - we will never stop all crime. Some crimes are so heinous the guilty need to be locked up from society. Most often, criminals are the product of many factors. Without a good education some may be more at risk of committing a crime. Some grew up in a family stuck in a cycle of violence. Others still may have grown up in a good family, but struggle with mental health.

If we address the ailments of society head on, we have the best chance at fighting crime before it happens. Helping people with addiction and mental health issues get access to affordable and high-quality health care can help. Or fixing our broken school funding formula can help schools better educate at-risk youth. There’s no shortage of opportunities to help society heal.

Just as we think of numerous ways to address a single facet of the budget, let’s now talk about a single issue in the budget and how it affects all different aspects of our society.

It’s hard to go a day as state senator without hearing how broadband internet expansion can help Wisconsin prosper. I was encouraged to see Governor Evers include nearly $100 million in additional broadband funding in his budget. That’s more than double the amount we’ve spent on broadband in the last 5 years combined!

The budget also defines broadband as speeds that can download content at least 25 megabytes per second (mbps) and upload content at 3mbps. That’s also the Federal Communications Commission’s standard of broadband.

Farmers will be able to connect to learn more about best practices, find new opportunities to sell their products directly to consumers and file reports. Kids will be able to do their homework and research at speeds that keep up with the rapidly advancing world. Patients and doctors will be able to use telehealth screenings. Broadband is the difference that makes our communities stronger. Agriculture, education and healthcare all need broadband access.

internet-ruralLike rural electrification, rural broadband access is critical if our small cities, villages and towns are going to thrive and continue to exist. And, like rural electrification, government has a role. Broadband expansion is expensive and most service providers don’t believe there are enough profits to justify the cost in rural areas. They need incentives to expand into underserved communities.

The biggest difference between rural electrification and rural broadband expansion is the benefits to all for connecting more people. Every single person or business that connects to the world wide web not only gets access to the world’s largest repository of advice and information, but they also become a contributor for everyone else in the world.

Now, those are two prime examples of how multiple budget matters connect to affect citizens across all spectrums of life in Wisconsin. The budget is a moral document -- it lays out our values and offers us a glimpse of how everything we do in state government is connected.

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“You be the Judge of the 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, 20 March 2019
in Wisconsin

crowdSen. Jeff Smith will hosting nine budget listening sessions in northwestern Wisconsin in March and April.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Ever since my two daughters were young and able to ice skate, I attended their figure skating practices and competitions. I’ve respected the work and dedication these young women put in for such an incredible sport. I became so interested that I started volunteering as the announcer for the Eau Claire Figure Skating Club competitions.

Competitive figure skating is mostly a solo sport. This changes however on the last day of the competition when many of the athletes get the opportunity to skate as a team. Synchronized skating has become a standalone competitive sport which adds that special team element to the skills they honed as solo artists. It's on that final day that I'm the announcer at the rink and introduce each team.

I’ve learned to appreciate the countless hours these young skaters put in with their coaches to perfect their spins, jumps, speed, and coordinating it all to music. Watching the perfect figure skating routine is the final product of hours of practice and countless falls and mishaps. There’s so much more than the few minutes the judges get to see on the ice including rivalry, high emotions, tears, and clashes in practice or the locker room.

I’ve found that description rings true for politics as well. There’s plenty of competition in the legislature as well as high emotions, disagreements, and tears at times. Certainly, it’s a rivalrous atmosphere with passionate individuals vying over sensitive issues.

At the end of the day, the young figure skaters put aside their craving for individual recognition to create a perfectly synchronized skating routine. I’m always amazed when they come together and create something great.

Just like a skater putting together a routine, Governor Evers put in his time practicing and training to perfect what he called the “People’s Budget.” Throughout this process, the Governor asked the people what he should include in his budget. To get suggestions, he hosted listening sessions in Superior, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Wausau.

As you can imagine, everyone has different ideas to move Wisconsin forward. Governor Evers embraced these diverse opinions and so do I. In the budget development phase, Governor Evers heard Wisconsin residents echo a few common ideas. Much of the suggestions revolved around affordable health care, roads that don’t bust up our cars, fully-funding public schools, and reforming our criminal justice system.

jeff-smithI will be hosting nine budget listening sessions to discuss Governor Evers’ biennial state budget proposal. I need you to be the judge for the Governor’s work on the People’s Budget, so please join me at one of the locations below.

Each budget listening session is from 5:30pm - 7:00pm and open to the public. Here are the details of our events:

· Thursday, March 21st: Whitehall - Whitehall Memorial High School

· Friday, March 22nd: Ellsworth - Ellsworth High School

· Monday, March 25th: Eau Claire - Joint Listening Session with Rep. Jodi Emerson - L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

· Thursday, March 28th: Holmen - Joint Listening Session with Sen. Jennifer Shilling and Rep. Steve Doyle - Holmen Public Library

· Thursday, April 11th: Durand - Durand City Hall

· Monday, April 15th: River Falls - Joint Listening Session with Sen. Patty Schachtner - River Falls Public Library

· Thursday, April 18th: Alma - Alma High School

· Tuesday, April 23rd: Menomonie - Joint Listening Session with Sen. Patty Schachtner at the Shirley Doane Senior Center

· Date is TBD: Black River Falls - Location is TBD

For more information, check out my website or Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you at one of these events. If you can’t make it to one of our listening sessions, please call, write or email me with any feedback about the budget.

The synchronized routine of 132 legislators trying to work together on the budget has just begun. It won’t be easy, but we rely on you to be the judge of how we work together.

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Sen. Smith Celebrates Women’s History Month

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 March 2019
in Wisconsin

women-3genAs we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s make a better effort to celebrate the women in our lives says Senator.


MADISON - Last week we welcomed the beginning of Women’s History Month – a time for us to celebrate women's achievements, honor women's history and reflect on the work that still needs to be done. At an early age, I was most inspired and influenced by the women in my life. I’m fortunate to have these relationships throughout my life. Women have motivated me in so many different ways and have shaped me to be the person I am today.

I met my first best friend, Linda, when my family moved into my childhood home near Eau Claire. As kids, social norms taught us boys were supposed to play with boys and girls with girls. Despite these norms, and the taunts from the other kids in school, Linda and I played together.

Linda’s friendship taught me the importance of questioning social norms. If we had listened to the others in our classroom, I would’ve missed out on many memories, a great friendship, and an even greater lesson. Our friendship taught me to have more trust and faith in women.

Time and time again girls were at the top of our class. I learned to respect the efforts and work of the girls around me, especially the times when I fell short.

As I grew older, I continued to develop new friendships with the young women in my high school, which I still treasure to this day. In my adult life, that never changed. It was always clear to me that women in my life were motivated and knowledgeable in so many different aspects.

This includes the most important women in my life - my wife, Sue, along with our daughters, Emily and Sarah. They’ve pushed me to be well-rounded and inspired me to be who I am today. Whether it be at home, at the office, or even in the campaign to get elected as Senator, I’ve seen how the women around me stay committed and get things done.

From early on, I learned the importance of working with women and trusting women. Without these relationships I wouldn’t be as aware of the diverse life perspectives in my community or the importance of listening to others while I’m serving as State Senator.

In the first week of Women’s History Month, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Status of Girls” presentation organized by the bipartisan Alverno College Research Center for Women and Girls. This was an eye-opening presentation highlighting disparities between girls and boys in Wisconsin, from increased rates of poverty and abuse to disproportionate cases of cyberbullying and mental health diagnoses. It was concerning to learn how these issues don’t just stop when a girls becomes an adult, but they are issues that continue to impact a woman as she grows older.

jeff-smithI looked around the room at the presentation and realized that I was only one of two men present in a group with more than twenty attendees. I found this rather odd. Shouldn't more of us be concerned about the issues affecting more than fifty percent of our population? Why was there such little representation from men at this presentation on the status of Wisconsin girls – a key demographic that makes up 11% of our state’s population?

I understand that we all have busy schedules and a lot of things going on in our lives; however, we must remember to value the concerns and experiences of others, including the girls and women of our state. I’ve learned so much growing up with strong women all around me. These relationships are a reminder for me to stand up, support others, and advocate for issues that may not personally affect me. As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s make a better effort to celebrate the women in our lives by developing new friendships, connecting with others and strengthening the voices around us.

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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)
User is currently offline
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
User is currently offline
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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