Testimony of Linea Sundstrom

Budget Hearing – Joint Finance Committee


Two minutes is about two hours short of what I’d need to list all the harm this budget will do to Wisconsin citizens. I’d ask you all to read my written testimony instead, which I’ll send you separately.

For now, I’d like to focus on how and why this budget is being used like a bludgeon to force unpopular policies on the ordinary people of Wisconsin.

If you will, set aside for a moment the money and lobbyists’ talking points that your big donors have given you. Take just a moment to consider what your actual constituents are trying to say to you.

Do you really get calls and emails from constituents saying, “You know, our air and water are too clean here. Could you please gut the DNR and stop them from enforcing our environmental laws? Lots of us are worried that we are going to pass on a clean and sustainable Wisconsin to our grand kids! And while you’re at it, could you get those scientists out of there, so that instead of, say, controlling chronic wasting disease in the deer herds, we can take a do-nothing approach.”

Do you hear from your voters to this effect? “Gosh, those for-profit colleges haven’t ripped off taxpayers and students enough? Could you please do away with oversight for them? Our returning combat veterans don’t have enough challenges. Can’t we make it easier for those for-profit outfits to cheat them out of their GI bill money?”

Have voters actually told you, “We’d like a less accountable elections system.”

How many of your constituents have told you directly, “It’s a darned shame that our state university system has consistently been ranked in the top ten worldwide. Could you please do something to bring it down many notches? Could you saddle the system with massive funding cuts followed by new unfunded mandates, such as the new requirement that all students get an internship? That ought to keep our profs out of the labs and classrooms. Could we get our governor, who was unable to earn his college degree, to dictate educational policy to our universities? Maybe you could cut funding to the lowest level ever. That should put us in good shape to compete in a world economy. We fully support you treating our higher education system like an abused dog. Kick it, starve it, call it bad names, and then after a few days, offer it a handful of kibble.”

Do you get lots of calls from citizens pointing out that, even though the disparity between Wisconsin’s haves and have-nots is increasing at the fastest level in the nation, it’s not enough! We need to take away child care support, health care, and nutrition programs, because people living in poverty don’t have enough hurdles. How can we raise taxes on the bottom and the middle and lower taxes on the top earners? And what’s with farm-to-school anyway? Why would we want our kids to eat healthy food from local sources when we could contract school lunches out to McDonald’s or KFC? How many actual letters have you received demanding that kids in wealthy school districts receive twice as much money per pupil as kids in poor districts?

Those of you from rural areas, is your inbox filled with emails demanding the end of family farms and sustainable agriculture in Wisconsin? Are they begging you to turn our state over to huge, non-sustainable, non-local corporations? Have you heard from a majority of Wisconsin’s long-term elderly residents that they’d like the Homestead credit reduced, so that they can pay more property tax than the rich folks? Can you target rural schools, especially, for reduced aid to K-12 education? We’re pretty sure that’s what our communities need right now.

People do want highways, but I wonder how many have really agreed that we need to let our kids and grand kids pay off the loans the governor is proposing to bail himself out for his mismanagement of the DOT contracting process. By 2018, debt service on those loans will amount to almost one-quarter of the transportation budget—money that could have been used to fill in potholes and to create public transportation systems that might have started to catch us up to other states.

I’m guessing that all you constituents understand that spending has to be balanced with revenue. But are they really telling you that they think it’s fine that Wisconsin’s largest corporations do not pay even a penny to cover the costs of the roads, ports, airports, fire and police services, and educated workforce that they depend on for their business? Do you get calls that say, you know, we are just in an ideal situation here: ABC Supply, Mercury Marine, Rockwell Automation, A.O. Smith, Briggs & Stratton, Miller-Coors pay nothing to the state, but someone making $20,000 a year pays six percent of their income. Why doesn’t this budget address that problem?

Looking at this budget leaves me with only two possible conclusions: either you are not listening to voters or you are listening more to your big money donors.

Action: Use the information in the last 2 paragraphs & contact your state legislators

Ask questions at your representative’s public events like town halls

April 5, 2017, State Fair Park

More ideas and information http://legendsvote.org

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