Guest Column

While Governor Evers was in the process of developing his 2021-23 biennial budget, I requested that funding for UW-Superior’s Lake Superior Research Institute (LSRI) and the establishment of the Better City Superior exposition district be included in the budget. The governor put both of these requests in his budget as well as many others that would benefit Northwestern Wisconsin, thus demonstrating his commitment to supporting the 73rd Assembly District and communities throughout our region of the state.

However, this good news was sadly short-lived. Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) recently gutted the governor’s budget, removing all of the governor’s proposals. While the future of the budget is unknown, something I know with certainty is this: partisan politics must stop if we are to get anything done for the people of Wisconsin. Both sides of the aisle need to work together in order for us to build a budget that works for all Wisconsinites, addresses our most pressing issues, and will help us to recover from this pandemic.

The creation of the long-awaited Better City Superior exposition district is one of nearly 400 items that JFC Republicans rejected and which cannot be brought up for consideration again in this budget cycle. It is extremely disheartening that the creation of the exposition district was removed despite it being an initiative that has received bipartisan support in past legislative sessions and overwhelming support from residents of Superior. Needlessly rejecting a budget provision that would generate more tourism and economic development in the Superior community is just one example of the ways in which politics are being put ahead of the needs of the people of Wisconsin.

I am hopeful that during their budget-review process, Republican members of the JFC will have the good sense to put language back into the budget to provide funding to the LSRI, which conducts environmental research and provides services that directly help people in Northwestern Wisconsin and beyond. The proposed funding would allow the LSRI to create a partnership program with northern Wisconsin communities.

Part of what makes the LSRI so valuable for the region is the way it connects staff, students, and surrounding communities. The proposed program would continue this tradition by providing opportunities for students and staff to collaborate directly with local, county, state, and tribal entities to develop and address environmental priorities. Other goals would include improving the accessibility of research and testing for homeowners and businesses, providing assistance to solve environmental issues, and creating a direct channel to scientific expertise as well as lab space. If this funding is not put back into the budget, it will be a huge loss for northern communities who would benefit greatly from this program’s resources.

When legislators engage in petty arguments and make decisions based on what is politically expedient rather than what is right, the people of Wisconsin suffer the consequences. Our state budget is a roadmap for the kind of Wisconsin we want to live in for the next two years, but the items we choose to include or leave out will impact us for many years to come. We must set aside personal differences and do what we were elected to do: work collaboratively to build a better Wisconsin. The people of Wisconsin deserve a state budget they can be proud of, one that reflects their needs and uplifts communities across the state. I will be voting on the budget as a whole rather than on individual provisions, however, as the JFC continues to make decisions about the 2021-23 biennial budget, I am hopeful these priorities will be kept in mind above all else.

Last Update: May 20, 2021 2:57 pm CDT

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