Senator Kathleen Vinehout's blog

The Best Idea for a Bill Comes from You!

Kathleen Vinehout

By Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“Where do you get ideas for bills?” a woman at a café recently asked me.

“The best ideas for bills come from people like you,” I told her 

December begins a brief time of calm in the Capitol. But behind the scenes, lawmakers are working on new legislation. In the next few weeks I will be drafting bills to introduce in January. I am looking for your ideas!

School Budget Proposal Brings Needed Relief

Kathleen Vinehout
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Over the past four years, we have seen an increased reliance on referenda to keep the lights on,” State Superintendent Tony Evers announced as he released his school budget proposal.
 
“Around the state, local communities took the lead on funding reform through the ballot box, but the state has to be a good partner and do our share to help small town schools.”
 
Indeed. This year, Wisconsinites passed a record number of school referenda.
 
In the recent election, 82% of school referenda passed. Over the last four years, citizens in more than half of Wisconsin’s school districts voted to raise their property taxes to pay for schools.
 
Why? Because state spending for public schools this year is less than it was eight years ago, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. This does not include public spending for the variety of private school options.

Back to the Woods

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“See that scrape?” Lisa pointed to a large area of bare dirt. “That’s not made by a tractor tire.”
 
“And look at the branches above,” she said. “They are all broken. The buck was standing here pawing his hooves and tossing his head.”
 
We were on the edge of one of our hay fields, just where the field dropped into a ravine. I could see over several pastures and fields to the northwest and through the woods to my neighbor’s pasture in the southeast – a commanding spot.
 
Lisa and I were tracking a big ten-point buck. I saw him many times - even running after a doe right outside my study window as I wrote last week’s column. He was muscular and alert with wide, heavy antlers – a deer hunter’s dream.

Joining Hands and Respecting Differences

Kathleen Vinehout
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“We try very hard to not have political discussions at our family gatherings,” my friend told me over dinner.
 
“How sad,” I replied. This comment – one I’ve heard many times in past months – stood in sharp contrast to the enthusiastic spirit of community I felt the night before.
 
I joined many neighbors in celebrating the release of a new album of local music. The accomplishment is a collaboration of three local musicians – Yata, Sinz and Orfield - in a delightful compilation entitled Dancing in the Light.
 
The crowd was enthusiastic, clapping in time with the music. One couple joined hands to dance even among the standing-room-only crowd.
 
As we left the concert, neighbors reminded each other of the dinner coming up in Alma. Parishioners at St John’s Lutheran Church will join hands to host a fundraiser for the victims of the flood in Buffalo County.
 
Somehow, we must figure out a way of taking the “joining of hands” from our local neighborhoods and apply it to the big decisions we make at the state and national levels.

Local Referenda Replace the Lack of State Education Funds

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
From Arrowhead to West Salem, voters across the state are considering the future of their school districts when they go to the polls. Citizens in 46 districts will be asked to approve referenda.
 
Some questions relate to the building of new facilities. However, 46% of this year’s referenda are for the on-going expenses of operating local schools.
 
I received many calls about school funding, property taxes and the problems underlying the questions voters face on the ballot.

Private School Subsidy for Special Education Raises Concerns About Quality and Cost

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“When you write about tax money going to private schools, please tell people about special education vouchers,” a rural school board member told me. “Because of a change in state law, our school district is paying for special education students to sit at home in front of a computer.”
 

Residents Question Public School Money Going to Private Schools

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“I am paying for private schools with my taxes?” the women from Pepin asked following my presentation at a recent Town Hall meeting. “Yes, you are,” I told her.
 
Residents were surprised at the sharp increase in the state spending on private schools – nearly a doubling in seven years. At the same time, Pepin School District lost nearly half of its state support. With less state money, property taxes made up a larger share of school support.
 
Wisconsin has funded private schools in Milwaukee by taking money from local public schools for a long time.
 
With passage of the last state budget, private and independent charter schools in southeast Wisconsin cost state tax coffers $645 million.

Taking Credit for the Sun Coming Up

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Wisconsin lowered taxes and reduced regulation and that increased jobs in the state, right?” A journalist from a national newspaper asked about the state of our economy for a story he was writing.
 
“The assumption you are making is that the only thing holding back growth is taxes paid by business,” I told the reporter. “And regulation,” he added.
 

Audit to Investigate King Veterans Home

Kathleen Vinehout
Audit to Investigate King Veterans Home
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“There used to be a real nice coffee shop. But they turned it into vending machines,” David Wedde told the Joint Committee on Audit.
 
To many it might seem like an insignificant thing but it was not just a coffee shop. It was a symbol of comradery at the Veterans Home in King. Everyday veterans gathered in the shop to trade stories. Now impersonal machines have replaced the shop – a victim of budget cuts.
 
Tim Michael added, “Shouldn’t be so hard to get treatment for PTSD. Why do we have a surplus when we need these things?”

How to Fund Roads: A Balancing Act

Kathleen Vinehout

How to Fund Roads: A Balancing Act

       By Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

Funding roads is an important job for state leaders. Nine cents of every state budget dollar goes towards transportation. In the vagaries of Wisconsin state budgeting, this includes dollars the feds send Wisconsin (about forty cents of every road dollar comes from Uncle Sam).

A prudent fiscal manager must balance several factors to make wise transportation decisions. He or she must maintain our current investments, plan for future growth, pay scrupulous attention to efficiencies and quality construction, and reconcile spending with revenue.

In short, a prudent transportation budget is a balancing act.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Senator Kathleen Vinehout's blog