Letter from Rep. Danou: Getting ready for the 2013-14 legislative sessionWhile I was getting ready for Thanksgiving with my family, I had some time to chat with people while we were out running errands.
By: Rep. Chris Danou , Pierce County Herald
While I was getting ready for Thanksgiving with my family, I had some time to chat with people while we were out running errands. Topics of conversation ranged from hunting, the Green Bay Packers, Thanksgiving plans and schools. One person said he was thankful the election is over and that the political ads and calls have stopped. He went on to say that hopes to see more bipartisan activity in the upcoming legislative session. I assured him that is my hope as well.
I believe a major reason for the divisiveness of last session was because of one-party control in the Capitol. Political party and affiliation aside, the majority party pushed through their agenda with such force so early in the session that most legislators never had an opportunity to have a civil conversation with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Of course, it varies from person to person, however, I believe we can find common ground if we take the time to reach out and talk to one another before next session.
Like a New Year, job or school year, a new legislative session is an opportunity for a fresh start. I believe a fresh start is exactly what we need in the Wisconsin State Legislature after the partisan division we experienced last session. The economy was sputtering along, moving at a slower rate than the national level and jobs were being lost monthly. According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics, Wisconsin had the second worst job growth in the country from October 2011 – October 2012. The only state that performed worse than Wisconsin in job growth during that time was West Virginia. We must do better in Wisconsin.
My staff and I have been scheduling meetings for the coming weeks with Democrats as well as Republicans in the Assembly. While there are many familiar faces and people I’ve gotten to know on a professional and personal level the past few terms, there are many new faces and I believe it’s important to reach out to as many of my colleagues as possible. It is my hope that by meeting with one another, we can form a positive working relationship and discover the things we have in common. Even this has been difficult at times as some people on the other side of the aisle have been easier to reach than others.
We must work together in order to get back on track and move our state forward. So far we have seen a continuation of partisan beliefs and action. Governor Walker recently announced that he will not set up health care exchanges in Wisconsin and will instead defer to the federal government. I believe this is a missed opportunity for state oversight of health care and I’m disappointed that Wisconsin’s exchanges will be implemented by the federal government versus the state.
While it is hard to predict how things are going to go this session, a recent speech made by Governor Walker at the Ronald Reagan Library in California sheds some light on the Republican legislative agenda for education this session. The Governor said he wants public schools in the state, including technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System to meet performance-based requirements to receive increased state funding. He went on to say that he will push to expand the state's voucher program for private schools. This philosophy hurts schools in our community.
Schools are the center of our rural communities and they especially feel the burden of fewer dollars from the state. In recent years, rural school districts have combined resources to keep the school open, or rather the heart of the community beating as they had to deal with state funding decreases. Last session, schools across Wisconsin witnessed record cuts of $1.6 billion in state funding while $300 million of that funding went to Milwaukee and Racine for unaccountable voucher school programs. We simply cannot continue this trend because rural schools have and will continue to suffer the most.
Schools have been and remain a top priority of mine. I will continue to be an advocate for quality public education in our community and across Wisconsin because the next generation needs the proper preparation for the future. There are ways for us to combine ideas and work in collaboration to address issues that matter most, such as public school funding, building a solid infrastructure and job growth. I remain optimistic and I’m ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to keep Wisconsin moving forward. With a fresh start to a new session, it is my hope there is more bipartisan activity and legislative compromise versus partisan bullying and agenda pushing.