By Senator Lena C. Taylor
This month, the Wisconsin State Legislature took up the state budget. Ironically, June is also “Migraine and Headache Awareness Month”. While sitting in the Senate Chambers debating the merits of the budget sent to the legislature by the Joint Committee on Finance, these two events seemed related. I can say, unequivocally, that I needed a Tylenol after listening to my republican colleagues during the floor session. After all, how do you rationalize continued underfunding of special education, refusal of Medicaid expansion, cheating in redistricting maps, and indifference to access to safe water? Whether you agree or not with everything Governor Tony Evers requested in his 2019 biennium budget, overall his “People’s Budget” was reasonable. The GOP response, both in the republican-controlled finance committee and the republican dominated legislature was at times, indifferent and reckless.
You see, the state spends roughly $81 billion dollars to operate a 2-year budget. And it has been said that you can tell where someone’s priorities lie based on where they spend their money. A quick review, of the monetary and policy decisions of the state’s republicans, unmasks their loyalties. Trust me, it is not to the residents of this state. Their budget decisions reflect a refusal to let go of former WIsconsin Governor Scott Walker’s failing policies.
So where do we start? To address transportation funding deficiencies, you can look forward to a study committee to consider the creation of toll roads and mileage based-fees. Public education funding has still not been restored to even 2002 levels. Further, the GOP didn’t want to discuss Evers proposal to help schools with a high degree of students living in poverty. The idea of expanding Medicaid funding that would provide more health care coverage for uninsured state residents, was called an “expansion of welfare”. Really, they said that. Okay, I probably need two Tylenols.
Republicans nixed Evers plan to raise the minimum wage and legalize marijuana. Everyday folks, couldn’t get much relief, but there was something in the budget for Tesla, the electric car manufacturer.
Oh wait, did I mention that a Republican legislator was going to hold out on supporting the budget, if Tesla wasn’t granted the ability to open their own dealerships in Wisconsin. Did I also mention that said legislator has a company that sells rebuilt Tesla vehicles and parts? Is your head hurting yet?
I can honestly say I love being a legislator. But each year the partisan divide gets a little deeper, a little more contrite. There was a time when Republicans, at both the state and federal level, were able to discuss environmental concerns and put forth policy. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). George H. Bush, Gerald Ford, Ronald Regan, and George W. Bush all found ecological goals that they could get behind. Yet Wisconsin Republican legislators couldn’t bring themselves to agree that safe access to drinking water, for all state residents, should be a goal we could all support. I’ve just got one word left in me…..unreal.