Public Policy Reflection by Dr. Peter Bakken
State budgets are moral documents. By defining spending priorities, they express our values, what we hold to be most important, and what we intend to leave for future generations. The budget that Wisconsin’s legislature will vote on next week will reflect our collective commitment – or lack thereof — to justice, the common good, and compassion.
In spite of a better-than-expected revenue outlook and record low unemployment rate, Wisconsin faces many challenges: families who cannot afford health care; drinking water contaminated by lead or manure; working parents who can’t find affordable child care, to name only a few.
Governor Evers has proposed a balanced budget that seeks to address these challenges by: expanding BadgerCare to cover more low-income persons; raising child care subsidies for working families; and improving access to clean drinking water.
However, the legislature’s budget-writing committee has removed or reduced these and other initiatives from the version of the budget that the State Assembly and Senate will vote on, possibly as soon as next week. Their argument, in essence, is that the Governor’s budget “costs too much.”
But we have to ask: What will the budget that the legislature eventually passes really cost?
- What will it cost low-income children and adults facing illness and serious medical needs?
- What will it cost households whose water is unsafe to drink?
- What will it cost parents who cannot afford quality child care so that they can go to work?
Wise stewardship of our state’s financial resources means more than adding up dollars and cents. It means considering the human cost of our spending choices.
What are important needs in your community? Will the budget being considered by the legislature help meet those needs, or ignore or minimize them? Let your elected representatives know today!
You can reach your State Senator or Assembly Representative via the Capitol switchboard at 1-800-362-9472 (a directory of state legislators is at: http://wi-bpdd.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/19-20-Leg-Directory.doc), or send an email using the Wisconsin Council of Churches’ Legislative Alert Center.