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Written by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31   
Wednesday, 10 April 2024 09:09

assembly-wiSenator Smith writes about how the local elections last week paint a different picture about Wisconsin’s finances and the inaction by Republicans to invest in our local governments.


MADISON - Last Tuesday the 2nd of April was the spring election. It was clear based on the referenda questions on ballots throughout Wisconsin that something isn’t right. Headlines throughout the past year proclaimed Wisconsin had a record surplus, but our ballots painted a different story of our state’s finances. It begs the question, what didn’t get done?

Decisions are made in town halls and municipal board rooms that determine how funds from the state, or collected through property taxes, are spent. Ever since the state capped how much local governments can raise in taxes, it falls on the state to make sure municipalities have the resources to meet their local needs. The passage of the two constitutional amendments on the ballot last week adds additional pressure for the state to adequately fund elections administered by our local municipalities.

school-meeting-crowdBut those weren’t the only referenda questions on the ballot in many places. School boards across the state have struggled to keep up due to the legislature failing to properly fund public education. There were 91 school referenda questions on ballots this spring. While the legislature sits on a $4 billion surplus, school districts are asking their local taxpayers to help them scrape by.

Our state’s surplus didn’t appear out of nowhere. It’s revenue that will come in thanks to a healthy economy and after all expenses are covered. It comes from taxpayers like you. It raises the question why there should be any need to force local governments to ask for more from you and why the legislature quit working before winter turned to spring.

Wisconsin has a two-year legislative session. On the first day of our current session, a calendar was presented by the Republican leaders. We were scheduled to work through April 11th of this year, but Republicans gaveled out the Assembly in February and the Senate followed suit March 12th.

It would’ve been nice to report that we ended early because we accomplished so much and solved every concern facing Wisconsinites. But that’s far from the truth.

Shortchanging public schools isn’t the only way the majority party failed you. Republicans refused to consider real solutions to the childcare crisis families are experiencing. Yes, the governor signed their tax credit for parents, but that falls woefully short of solving this issue. PFAS continues to go unchecked because Republicans wanted to strip the DNR of any real enforcement power over the polluters. We did nothing to protect women’s reproductive health or guarantee paid family medical leave.

jeff-smithSome bills made it through one house but did not get a vote in the other house. Here is a partial list of such bills.

·         Assembly Bill 51 which would’ve allowed DACA individuals (or lawfully present immigrants) to be appointed as law enforcement officers. We are suffering a shortage of corrections officers as well as sheriff deputies and police officers and this bill would’ve done a lot to help.

·         Assembly Bill 102 would’ve expanded the eligibility for the Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit. Currently, the disability rating is 100% for qualification. This bill lowered that to 70%.

·         Assembly Bill 129 was aimed at closing a loophole in state statute relating to sexual assault by a healthcare provider.

·         Assembly Bill 419 was meant to create an online carbon calculator for farmers to help them adopt best practices while also being compensated for their efforts.

·         Assembly Bill 567, the “Monday Processing” bill would’ve allowed clerks to begin processing absentee ballots on the Monday before the election to make Election Day go smoother and end earlier. Instead Republicans made it harder for election workers with the constitutional amendments they put forward mentioned above.

·         Senate Bill 155 hits home here as it would’ve enforced closure notifications for nursing homes or community-based residential facilities. We will likely introduce something similar next year to include hospital closures as well.

There were several bills recommended through bipartisan efforts, but were ignored from various task forces on Human Trafficking, Child Obesity and Truancy.

Every bill that failed this session must be reintroduced next session. So much was left undone, while efforts to make it harder for municipalities were accomplished throughout. Although this legislative session was a bust, we can do better. It may just take a better crop of legislators to get the job done instead of hanging it up early next time around.


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2024 18:06
 
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