Madison – Representative Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) expressed disappointment today that Senator Vinehout (D-Alma) had failed to correct the record on an erroneous claim. In a memo seeking cosponsors for a bill she authored, Sen. Vinehout claimed, “While other states were investing in rural broadband expansion, Governor Walker turned away $23 million in federal stimulus money for broadband expansion in 2011.” In fact, the state was unable to accept federal money at the time, due to the structure of the BadgerNet contract. Moreover, the Department of Administration (DOA) was able to accomplish the same goal – wiring libraries with fiber internet connections – without the federal grant money.
“Sen. Vinehout’s claim is simply untrue, as I’ve made clear many times,” said Rep. Quinn. “The Democrats are clinging to tired talking points because they have nothing to add to the conversation. Bringing up this same thing again means that either the Senator hasn’t done her homework, or doesn’t care what the facts are. Either way, she should know better. It’s also interesting that Sen. Vinehout has also consistently voted against increasing funding for broadband expansion grants. If this funding matters to her, I’d think she’d want to vote for it.”
In an Assembly floor debate a year ago, Rep. Quinn shut down then-Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca for using the same false claim. “It was wrong then, and it’s still wrong now. How can someone who wants to be Governor keep making claims that just don’t hold up to the facts?”
Rep. Quinn pointed out that testimony offered by Bill Esbeck, Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, before the Committee on Mining and Rural Development in February 2016 completely invalidated Sen. Vinehout’s claims (and Rep. Barca’s before her):
WSTA member companies were interested in this partnership opportunity and would have welcomed the opportunity to work with DOA on implementation of this grant. However, federal bureaucracy and burdensome, unreasonable grant requirements forced Wisconsin to decline the funds. Specifically, the grant required a 20 year commitment, while the state BadgerNet contract with the private sector providers extended until only 2016. The risk, both to the state and my private sector companies, made the grant unworkable. The grant rules were written for networks owned by private companies, but this was a state-owned network operated by private companies. The federal government insisted on a 20 year commitment but the state only had a five year contract in place.
Significantly, the DOA announced two years ago the completion of fiber builds to Wisconsin libraries. Lost in the rhetoric surrounding this issue is the fact that the February 2014 announcement for the fiber projects for rural libraries accomplished the same goal as what the $23 million in federal grant money was targeting.
“Democrats seem to have a hard time accurately and truthfully representing the facts of the Republican agenda,” said Rep. Quinn. “I hope Sen. Vinehout will set the record straight on this issue.”