Wachs discusses key priorities including education and transportation.
MADISON - On Tuesday, January 3rd, The Wisconsin State Assembly officially began the 2017-2018 legislative session. Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) took the oath of office for the third time, and offered his outlook on the upcoming session:
“Inauguration Day is always an exciting time here in the Capitol. I look forward to meeting the new members of the Assembly and Senate and reconnecting with my colleagues who continue to serve the state of Wisconsin.
“In Wisconsin, we have an awful lot of work to do. I know that despite some of the strong differences between our parties and between members, we can find common ground.
“One issue that we can all agree upon is that safe and strong transportation systems are vital for our economy. With our roads continuing to deteriorate and important projects being delayed, we simply cannot wait to make difficult but necessary decisions regarding transportation. As the ranking Democratic member on the Assembly Committee on Transportation, I am ready to work on solutions that benefit all Wisconsin citizens and repair the damage to our roads and grow our economy.
“In addition to growing our economy through a strong infrastructure, we must refocus our efforts on investing in education at all levels in Wisconsin. Too many school districts are being forced to go to referendum just to survive, and our UW System has had to make serious decisions due to an unprecedented cut in funding. Wisconsin’s once proud tradition of education has been decimated. We must recognize the relationship between strong education and economic development. I remain committed to investing in education and ensuring that Wisconsin is once again a leader in research, workforce development, and economic prosperity.
“This session will bring many unique challenges and difficult decisions. I hope that the optimism, enthusiasm, and collegiality from today’s ceremony will continue as we move through the session.”
Shilling wants to strengthen the middle class, boost family wages and invest in the future of Wisconsin.
MADISON, WI – Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) welcomed new and returning members to the legislature today at the inauguration ceremony for the 103rd Session of the State Legislature. In her inauguration day remarks, Sen. Shilling laid out her vision for the future and policy goals to strengthen the middle class, boost family wages and invest in the future of Wisconsin.
“As we seek to balance Wisconsin’s budget deficit and build a brighter future, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I are committed to focusing on the important issues at hand,” said Sen. Shilling. “We will put forward thoughtful proposals to improve workplace flexibility, increase economic freedom and invest in pro-growth policies to strengthen the middle class. We recognize that these aren’t Democratic or Republican issues. They’re Wisconsin issues and we must find ways to work together on these key priorities.”
Sen. Shilling’s full remarks to the Senate are below:
Mr. President, friends and colleagues. I am honored to join you here today as we begin a new legislative session and address the challenges facing our state.
I would like to welcome our new and returning members as well as their families. I especially want to recognize my husband Chris and two boys, Nate and Zach, who are here with me today. Thank you for your unconditional love, support and encouragement. I also want to welcome everyone watching from home on WisconsinEye as well as our guests here in the Senate chamber.
While today marks the start of a new session, it also provides our legislature with a clean slate and the opportunity to chart a new course for our state. We all know that Wisconsin is a unique, vibrant and hardworking state full of amazing people and unparalleled potential, but we need a clearer plan to invest in our future and ensure long-term economic success.
While the rest of the nation has seen strong job gains, our state has consistently ranked below the national average for job creation, we’ve struggled with declining wages and our aging infrastructure is preventing many businesses from expanding. Wisconsin communities, businesses and residents are already bracing for another round of difficult budget cuts and sacrifices because of fiscal policies that favor the wealthy over working families.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. Just across the border in Minnesota, their progressive policies are attracting businesses, growing their middle class, and resulting in major budget surpluses. Just last month, their budget office forecasted a $1.4 billion surplus and they have a $1.9 billion reserve fund. Rather than looking to cut and borrow, they are investing and growing.
As we seek to balance Wisconsin’s budget deficit and build a brighter future, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I are committed to focusing on the important issues at hand. We will put forward thoughtful proposals to improve workplace flexibility, increase economic freedom and invest in pro-growth policies to strengthen the middle class. We recognize that these aren’t Democratic or Republican issues. They’re Wisconsin issues and we must find ways to work together on these key priorities.
In this new session, it is important to recognize the shortcomings of past policies and look for new ways to deliver on legislative promises. Without adequately investing in our future, Wisconsin will continue to lag our neighboring states in job growth and prosperity. We know that a quality education is the foundation for lifelong success, yet state cuts, local funding challenges and the massive increase of student loan debt have become significant burdens for families. By making targeted investments in our schools, we can improve education outcomes at all levels from pre-K programs to our technical colleges and universities.
Senate Democrats will also look for ways to help businesses improve workplace productivity, reduce employee turnover and provide greater workplace flexibility. We want to focus on increasing access to affordable childcare, reducing health care costs and improving retirement security to eliminate the barriers that prevent employers and employees from succeeding in a competitive global marketplace.
We also recognize that our government has a responsibility to strengthen communities and private enterprise by maintaining a strong public infrastructure. From repairing aging roads and bridges to encouraging broadband access in urban and rural areas, we need to ensure that our infrastructure is an asset, not a liability, to businesses growth and expansion.
Each of the members in this chamber represents a unique district and geographic area of our state, but we are united in our desire to do what’s best for everyone. Rather than focusing on policies that will divide communities, I hope that we will seize this opportunity to set a new tone and find commonsense solutions to the challenges we face. As the Senate Democratic Leader, I look forward to working with Gov. Walker, my legislative colleagues, community leaders and local advocates to strengthen relationships and move Wisconsin forward. By working together, I know that we can provide greater economic opportunity, prosperity and freedom for all to enjoy. Thank you.
Milwaukee State Senator on Education, Administrative Rules, and Insurance, Housing, and Trade, Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism committees. Looking forward to working with neighbors and colleagues.
MADISON - Senator Chris Larson was named the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Education, the Senate Committee on Administrative Rules, and the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. Senator Larson has also been appointed as a member of Senate Committee on Insurance, Housing, and Trade and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism.
Sen. Larson released the following statement on the 2017-2018 committee assignments:
“As the lead Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Education last session, I had the opportunity to collaborate with teachers, experts, legislators, advocates, and students to come up with legislation that puts our kids on the road to opportunity. I look forward to continuing our work to strengthen our schools and provide needed support to all students.
“Last session, I introduced common sense solutions that our state can and should be spearheading to ensure all of our kids are able to thrive and live a prosperous life. Looking ahead, I will introduce legislation to support the successful community schools model as a proven way to remove learning barriers, such as access to mental health care. Supporting this model will ensure schools are again the center of communities across Wisconsin the way they were meant to be.
“Our Milwaukee community has already shown a keen interest in adopting the community schools approach. Milwaukee Public Schools, in partnership with United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, recently announced that two additional schools transitioned into being community schools. I'm proud of our Milwaukee neighbors who have worked hard to ensure all of our students have a bright future, and look forward to working with my legislative colleagues to invest in these initiatives.
“Additionally, more and more communities across Wisconsin are passing referendums as they struggle to make up for the state’s failure to invest in our neighborhood schools. In fact, when voters are asked to pick up the state’s tab to provide basic support for their local schools, 80% of the time they say ‘yes.’ Unfortunately, some of our distressed neighborhoods have been economically squeezed dry and simply cannot fill the funding gap left by Governor Walker’s cuts. They need state legislators to end the historic cuts and instead provide every school with their fair share of funding.
“As a state senator and as a member of these important committees, I look forward to working with my neighbors and colleagues to support policies that will provide each of our neighbors the freedom to pursue the American Dream.”