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Doyle asks public to join fight against Republican budget

Gov. Jim Doyle is seeking public support to defeat a conservative budget proposal adopted by the Republican-controlled Assembly last week. In Superior this morning, Doyle asked the public to fight for a budget written by Democrats that does more ...

Gov. Jim Doyle is seeking public support to defeat a conservative budget proposal adopted by the Republican-controlled Assembly last week.

In Superior this morning, Doyle asked the public to fight for a budget written by Democrats that does more than help Wisconsin "get by" and treats all the state's communities fairly.

Superior is among the four cities that would be targeted for a 12.5 percent cut in the shared revenue it receives from the state. The three other communities, Milwaukee, Racine and Beloit have one thing in common with Superior -- they're all Democratic Party strongholds.

The governor's address outside fire hall headquarters on Tower Avenue was preaching to the choir. Both the Superior City Council and Douglas County Board this week are considering resolutions to oppose the Assembly's spending plan. The county board is also considering a resolution in Superior of the University of Wisconsin-Superior's nixed academic building.

Under that budget, the state would eliminate about $43 million in shared revenues for counties and the four cities. Counties would lose about 5 percent, $120,000 in Douglas County alone. The city would lose more than $1 million in shared revenue.

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Councilor Bob Finsland will present the resolution Tuesday night because the Assembly's budget is "blatantly partisan; it's so transparent."

"It certainly appears that way," said Douglas Finn, Douglas County Board chairman.

Rep. Frank Boyle, D-Summit, said the budget was drafted without input from Assembly Democrats and presented to the body just 24 hours before the vote.

The proposal didn't have universal support of Republican members. Jeffrey Wood, R-Chippewa Falls, voted against the measure.

The budget proposal eliminates funding for the UW-Superior academic building supported by $7 million in private donations. It also eliminates $162 million in funding for the UW System, which will reduce campus revenue by about $2.5 million in Superior, the governor said. Coupled with no increase in student aid, he said it's leaving students in limbo about whether they can afford to go back to college this fall. The bill prompted Superior Mayor Dave Ross -- a Republican holding the nonpartisan seat -- to travel to Madison this afternoon to meet with the Assembly's Republican leaders. Ross said the GOP budget would be devastating for Superior. He plans to meet with Speaker Michael Huebsch, R-West Salem.

Ross said while he doesn't agree with governor's proposal, which would increase state spending by 9 percent in the next biennium, the Republican-controlled Assembly's budget "lacks vision" and is the wrong way to attract people to the message. He said the budget "doesn't look at the whole picture and punishes communities ... and is dead wrong."

Craig Rosand, president of the Republic Party of Douglas County, said the Republican Assembly budget isn't the only proposal that has unfairly targeted Superior. The governor's proposal to tax oil revenue would only affect Superior, the home of the only oil refinery in the state, one considering a $2 billion expansion project.

"The Democratic budget proposal is flawed in that it proposes the largest tax increase in Wisconsin history without addressing the structural deficit problem," Rosand said. He said increases in tipping fees could cost the city $1 million in revenue and cost residents in Superior an additional $800,000 to dump their trash.

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However, he said he's not happy with the budget adopted last week either.

"I like the idea of holding the line on taxes," Rosand said. "But they're not doing it for Superior."

The governor said the cut in shared revenue in Superior could eliminate 23 police and fire positions.

If the budget proposal passed, there would be layoffs, said Council President Ed Anderson. However, those cuts are likely to be across all city departments.

Still, it would be an additional loss of personnel the fire department just couldn't afford, said Fire Chief Tad Matheson. In his nearly three decades with the fire department, he has witnessed the department dwindle from 71 to 37 firefighters. He said cutting additional staff would "jeopardize public safety and the safety of firefighters."

Shelley Nelson can be reached at (715) 395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com .

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