LWV Perplexed About Many State Budget Provisions

WISCONSINREPORT.COM (03/16/2015) [PART TWO] – As the Joint Committee on Finance deliberates the proposed State Budget in Madison, the Wisconsin League of Women Voters has issued a list of things in the budget they are concerned about. In Part Two we continue to look at their concerns.

In Part Two of our coverage of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin comments to the Joint Committee on Finance , the LWV urges the committee members “not to allow institutions built over the past century and programs that have served Wisconsinites well for decades to be destroyed. Do not use this budget to dismantle or weaken the watchdog agencies and citizen boards that hold government accountable to us, the citizens of our state.”

Some of the things that trouble the LWV, not covered in Part One, are listed below:

“The proposed budget recommends that Senior Care enrollees first sign up for Medicare Part D and then use the state benefits under Senior Care as a supplement. Part D is a more expensive program offered by insurance companies and other private companies approved by Medicare. Right now, under Senior Care, the state can negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for cheaper drugs than recipients can get through Medicare Part D.”

“Senior Care has had bipartisan support. It is easier to enroll in and more understandable than Part D. There are lower co-pays and fewer coverage gaps than most Part D plans have. We urge you not to make Medicare Part D a prerequisite for Senior Care.”

“Family Care is a long-term care alternative which would be cut by $6 million in the second year under the proposed budget. Further, the budget moves oversight from a social model (Department of Health Services) to a business model (Office of the Commissioner of Insurance) which reduces consumer and community input to the programs and increases the costs as contracts are awarded without bids and are switched from non-profit to for-profit entities.”

“The budget would also eliminate Aging & Disability Resource Center governing boards and advisory councils. We are concerned about the impact of these changes upon frail, elderly persons.”

“We can’t help but note that BadgerCare is a successful program which already provides for essential health care services for low income residents of Wisconsin. It can be expanded largely with federal dollars to include thousands more individuals and families who are currently waiting for access to quality and affordable health care. Expanding the BadgerCare program would be good for Wisconsin’s economy, and the League has repeatedly urged Governor Walker to accept the federal money available to expand Medicaid, and that would improve the prospects for this biennial budget.”

The League of Women Voters are also concerned about some issues involving the Natural Resources Board:

“We oppose the proposal to reduce our state’s Natural Resources Board (NRB) to an “advisory only” role which would give all rule-making power to one person, the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, a gubernatorial appointee confirmed by the senate. This power grab would defeat the checks and balances provided by the seven-member NRB, which is made up of citizens from a diverse geographic and professional cross section of our state.”

“The NRB has for decades been accessible to the public and fully transparent as it creates rules for the Department of Natural Resources. It is alarming that the proposed budget would do away with this important tool for citizen input and transparency.”

“We oppose the proposals to cut science staff by 66 fulltime positions at the DNR, specifically targeting the Bureau of Scientific Services and Communication and Education. We need the expertise and experience of staff scientists to help citizens, administrators and lawmakers make sound decisions based on facts in natural resource management.”

“We also need experts who can provide on-going education and communications to citizens to help us understand the issues that go into these decisions. Otherwise ideology can prevail at the expense of the agency’s mission.”

“The proposed budget freezes funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which was created in 1989 to safeguard natural land and waters for outdoor recreation and sports. This fund protects many hunting, boating and even urban park areas, which provides quality of life and supports our tourism industry. The League opposes this funding freeze.”

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also has a few comments concerning Lake Michigan:

“We heartily support the proposed directive to eliminate the sunset on collecting ballast water fees to ensure the program’s future. We also support the directive to maintain bonding for the Urban Nonpoint Source, Targeted Management Runoff, Contaminated Sediment Removal, and Dam Safety programs. These measures will keep our lake clean for recreation and protect our waters for a healthy environment.”

The League of Women Voters are also concerned about statewide water quality initiatives:

“We oppose the proposed more than $6 million in cuts to polluted runoff management efforts, which are proven to have a direct and substantial impact on water quality. The funding will take away state support for urban and agricultural best practices, education, and technical assistance that provide water quality benefits.”

The LWV of Wisconsin supports public transportation:

“Public transit is a small part of the transportation budget, but it makes a huge difference for people who rely on public transit to get to jobs, interviews, work, child care, government agencies, shopping and other daily business. A modern, efficient system of public transit will help grow Wisconsin’s economy, because it attracts young professionals to our communities and helps prevent air pollution and traffic congestion.”

“We urge you to keep public transit as an integral component of the Transportation Fund. In addition we call for a more balanced use of transportation dollars to include more for public transit and local roads and less for unnecessary huge highway projects.”

To summarize, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin urges the Wisconsin legislators to “craft a state budget that serves all Wisconsin residents fairly with vital services, a healthy environment, high quality education and accountable government. That will reflect Wisconsin values, and it is what the people expect from our state.”

This concludes Part Two of WisconsinReport.com coverage of comments about the proposed State Budget to the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. See Part One for the beginning of the LWV’s input to the committee.



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