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Dems Hear From Northwoods Residents On Budget


Three State Senate Democrats stopped in Rhinelander Saturday to hear from citizens about Governor Walker's budget proposal. While lightly attended, there was criticism of what the plan could do to the environment and education.

Joint Finance Committee member, Jon Erpenbach from Madison, along with Janet Bewley from Ashland and Janis Ringhand from Evansville heard from Rhinelander School Board Vice-President Judith Conlin who said the state has gradually shifted more school costs to local taxpayers. She says in 2002 state aid was half of property taxes, but that has changed...

"....currently, in 2014-15, our property taxpayers pay 89% of our school funding and 11% comes from state aid..."

She says the district has cut millions from it's budget, but is at a funding crisis point.Other speakers opposed cuts to public education to expand vouchers to private schools.  Senator Bewley says Wisconsin is facing a "have and have nots" education model...

"....we're going to be looking at a lawsuit soon. Because(school funding) is not equal. If you're a public school kid in Brookfield or some other suburb of Milwaukee or Madison, you're education is not what you get in Mellen. I guarantee it...."

Several speakers opposed freezing the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund acquisitions of lands and a proposal to change the citizen-run Natural Resources Board, the governing council for the DNR, to an advisory role only under a politically-picked DNR Secretary.

The budget proposes to cut 66 science staff from the DNR budget. Yolan Mistele of Oneida county.. opposed that...

"....we need the expertise and experience of staff scientists to help citizens, administrators and lawmakers make sound decisions based on facts..."

Andrea Fenner from Lincoln county opposed the $84,000 grant loss to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin....

"....in general, all of these budget cuts are trying to balance the budget for who? You think us, no. For the Governor, so he looks good in the next race..."


Erpenbach said it's almost a certainty that the budget will not go the Governor in its current form.

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