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LETTER: Legislature should support, not target, northwestern Wisconsin

To The Telegram: Wisconsin State Legislature: Knock it off! Douglas County, the city of Superior, UWS and our public schools have had enough. As an elected representative in Superior, I'm frustrated that counties, schools, and municipalities are ...

To The Telegram:

Wisconsin State Legislature: Knock it off! Douglas County, the city of Superior, UWS and our public schools have had enough. As an elected representative in Superior, I'm frustrated that counties, schools, and municipalities are continually in your crosshairs. You send us mandates with no funding, cut our shared revenue, and then freeze our levies. What do you expect us to do? We are doing our best to run a tight ship and an even tighter budget. We have expended considerable efforts to try to grow our city, and all we get are further cuts and threats.

The latest salvo was fired from the state Assembly. Their budget proposal cuts off funding for a sorely needed building at UWS (that has already had $7 million in private donations). Their budget also cuts shared revenue by 12.5 percent for Superior and three other cities specifically, and freezes our levy at 0 percent. Gasoline and heating costs didn't freeze.

From time to time, I've been accused of being a Republican. For the record, I don't belong to either party. I am, however, a fiscal conservative. Even to a conservative, this latest budget incarnation is ridiculous. It is not fairly distributed, and it is not responsible government. I know many of the state legislators used to be city alderman or councilors. They need to remember what it is like to have these sorts of challenges. I would extend an invitation to any state legislator, or state official to come to Superior and see what challenges we face.

A word, for the record, about shared revenue: Shared revenue is not state aid. Shared revenue is part of the state's obligation to divide a portion of the income tax revenues among other forms of government, i.e. counties, cities, schools, etc. This has been the practice for almost 100 years, and it is meant to offset the taxes on property. When the state fails to support shared revenue with inflationary increases, it is essentially raising property taxes.

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The budget that the Assembly began with wasn't perfect either. The last thing we need right now is more spending, more programs and new taxes like the one targeted at oil companies. Why would the state think it's entitled to an increased share of the profits, before any bills are paid (gross), from the only oil company with confidence enough in Wisconsin to locate a refinery here? Murphy Oil is the only oil refiner in Wisconsin, and it wants greatly to expand that one facility. How does the state support it? By taxing its gross revenues on top of what it already pays.

So to the Legislature I say, "Fix your own house first. Balance your expenditures with your revenue and be honest about it. Distribute the shared revenue and school funding as a separate line item. If shared revenue is made healthy and the promise is kept, property taxes will stay flat and possibly go down."

Support Northwestern Wisconsin instead of targeting it. Wouldn't that be nice for a change?

-- Kevin Norbie,

Superior City Council vice president

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