Julie Lassa Discusses Budget Concerns

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Julie Lassa Discusses Budget Concerns

Premiere Date: 
June 13, 2013

Julie Lassa speaks on changes Senate Democrats seek on the budget.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Zac Schultz:

Dale Schultz isn't the only person seeking changes in the budget. Democrats would like to rewrite the whole thing. Joining us from Stevens Point is Democratic senator, Julie Lassa. Senator Lassa, thanks for joining us.

Julie Lassa:

Thank you very much, Zac, for having me on.

Zac Schultz:

I'm sure the list of things in the budget you'd like to see changed is long, but what area do you think is most likely to be changed?

Julie Lassa:

Well, I think, you know, just broadly, budgets are about values, and it has become clear that Governor Walker and the Republican legislative leadership in terms of this budget, it's all about putting their extremist values above the well-being of Wisconsin families. And I think that's unfortunate. I mean, one of the things that I would certainly like to see changed, as well as I know other legislators would like to see changed as well, is regarding the Medicaid expansion. Wisconsin could serve 90,000 additional people with health insurance. We would save $100 million of taxpayer money by taking the federal Medicaid expansion and getting back millions of dollars in the federal taxes that Wisconsinites pay. But instead you have Republicans in the legislature and this governor that have decided to put their ideology above those individuals, above taxpayers, and instead we're going to be getting-- having Wisconsin taxpayers pay $120 million and 90,000 people are not going to be covered by health insurance. And then those individuals, when they need health care coverage or need health care, will be showing up in the emergency rooms of hospitals all across the state. Many of them won't be able to pay and those costs will then be filtered on to you and I and charging for higher health care.

Zac Schultz:

Well, to make any changes Democrats need two Republicans to join them. Right now it's a 18-15 majority. Democrats plus two Republicans mean 17 for the majority there. Dale Schultz has expressed concern about a lot of the major issues in this budget. Is there another Republican out there that you're looking for or do you have some moderates in mind that you think you can work with to find changes?

Julie Lassa:

Well, we know that there are definitely deep divisions within the senate Republican caucus over the budget as well as a number of other policies that they've recently brought forth. And I do think that there are moderate Republicans who, if enough of their constituents talk to them, because right now they're hearing from extreme right wing special interest groups, as well as others trying to push a real extreme agenda in our state. But they need to be hearing from their constituents and people who are going to be hurt by this budget. And I do think that there are some senate Republicans who would be supportive of making changes to especially the most drastic pieces of this budget.

Zac Schultz:

Well, one of the changes I know Democrats are looking for has to do with the expansion of school choice statewide. Republican Dale Schultz has already said he does not like that. He’d like to see that pared back . Two other Republicans that support limited expansion are Senators Ellis and Luther Olsen, but they were involved in the negotiations that created the current deal. So does that mean they may be tied to the status quo and much more difficult to work with in terms of paring back expansion?

Julie Lassa:

Well, I think that there are other moderate senate Republicans who are probably also troubled by the statewide expansion of choice. If you look at this budget, there is a 29% increase in funds for private voucher schools in this state, where for public schools there is only a meager 1.4% increase in funding. And then when you look at the track record of these voucher schools, they do no better than their public education peers, and in some instances they're actually doing much worse. So I think that it is very much an unproven educational strategy to be moving vouchers now to be statewide, and it's also going to cost taxpayers much more to be running now two funded educational-- statewide educational systems, where you have public education and now private vouchers as well. And we-- we are having difficulty affording just the public education system. Why on earth would we want to expand vouchers statewide and then as to pay-- ask taxpayers to be paying for a second one? I think that's just ridiculous, especially when we know it's going to cost taxpayers a lot of money, and the voucher students are doing no better than their public school peers and, like I said, in some cases they're actually doing worse.  

Zac Schultz:

The assembly will take up the budget first starting next Tuesday and we've heard Republicans say they want to pass this through quickly with no changes. Does it complicate making changes in the senate with the assembly presumably having passed it first already? Will that make it harder because then it would have to go back to the assembly?

Julie Lassa:

Well, I would hope that the senate would not be beholden to the extremist ideas that are coming over from assembly Republicans. They have shown very little willingness to work with senate Republicans and moderate Democrats in both houses. And I just think that it's a real shame and they're doing a disservice, and, again, putting their ideology ahead of the well-being of Wisconsin families. So I hope that the senators, Republicans and especially us Democrats, we are looking for-- to make major changes in this budget because we believe that it's going to hurt Wisconsin families.

Zac Schultz:

Well, and one change in the budget you have to be happy about is the motion that allows the Stevens Point company, Skyward, to compete for contracts in local school systems. Now, you like this idea, but one of the reasons it got put in here is because that company didn't win the statewide contract in the first place. Is that the right piece of thing to be in the budget?

Julie Lassa:

Well, you have to look at the history of this. I mean, I-- when the decision was made in Governor Walker's previous budget to institute a single vendor, I was fighting against that at the time. I also sponsored legislation to keep it a multi-vendor last session. So this session I again, working with Representative Katrina Shankland and others, introduced senate Bill 54, which I'm now very happy that it is now included in the Joint Finance version of the budget. So this has been an issue, and I don't think that it's because Skyward lost the contract, because this is something that we've been fighting for even before the contract decision was made by DOA and DPI.

Zac Schultz:

All right. In about 15 seconds or less, do you think there will be major changes made to the budget?

Julie Lassa:

Well, I hope that there are one or two or more courageous senate Republicans who are willing to stand with Senator Dale Schultz and pull out the most egregious policies, as well as provisions of this budget so that we can move forward more as an unified state rather than putting extreme ideology before the well-being of Wisconsin families.

Zac Schultz:

All right. Senator Julie Lassa from Stevens Point, thank you very much for your time.

Julie Lassa:

Thanks so much, Zac. 


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