In an end of the year interview with The Wheeler Report, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling said the Democratic caucus is prepared to “roll up its sleeves and work hard for families,” and wants to be the alternative to what they believe will be Republican overreach.
Shilling said her biggest regret for 2016 was the loss of Sen. Julie Lassa to the Senate Democratic caucus. Shilling said Lassa was a strong voice for her district, working across the aisle on issues, and being the caucus representative for WEDC. Shilling said over the years she has become close personal friends with Lassa and will miss her advice and guidance.
Shilling said one of her biggest successes for 2016 was restoring a better dialogue with the Senate Majority Leader’s office. Shilling said she was able to work with Fitzgerald’s office to pass things like the Bucks Arena bill and the address confidentiality bill for domestic abuse victims. Shilling highlighted that the Milwaukee Bucks Arena is huge for the Milwaukee area bringing thousands of jobs and increasing wages for workers.
Shilling said the elections were a national trend highlighting that the electorate is upset and anxious, and many don’t believe government works for them. Shilling said the Democrats need to get back to basics and work to support education, good roads, and well-paying jobs in Wisconsin. Shilling said, “We need to govern. We need to be problem solvers.”
Shilling emphasized that the problems with roads in Wisconsin were a direct result of the GOP’s failure to address transportation funding in the past three budgets. Shilling said, “They own this. The fault lies in the GOP.” Shilling said Gov. Walker has put himself in a box with his stance and has no exit strategy. Shilling said to continue to delay projects is costly and dangerous.
When asked about issues like state self-insurance or healthcare, Shilling said those issues are uncertain because of the change to a Trump administration. Shilling said it is uncertain what Trump will do with the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, BadgerCare, or SeniorCare. Shilling said there are many unknowns in healthcare right now and her caucus will be waiting to see what Trump does.
In reaction to Sen. Stroebel’s retirement benefits bills, Shilling highlighted the work Sen. Hansen has done in previous sessions on his Pension Security bills. Shilling emphasized that retirement security was part of the Senate Democrats Badger Blueprint.
Shilling also talked about the Personal Property Tax, sharing that she served on a committee to study the issue. Shilling said she understood the issue, but that it is a key source of revenue for cities and municipalities. Shilling emphasized that any change needed to be phased in to give local governments time to prepare for it. Shilling said, “It’s not a black and white issue. There are many shades of gray with personal property tax.”
Shilling shared her concerns about the UW System, highlighting that good faculty are leaving Wisconsin for other states and other systems. Shilling said campuses like UW La Crosse have worked to use their auxiliary funds but are getting penalized as the cuts are distributed throughout the system. Shilling said the UW System is looking for more ways to fund schools, but continuing to raise out-of-state- tuition hurts schools like La Crosse which are on borders. Shilling highlighted that reciprocity helps in some cases, but she doesn’t want to see the UW System price people out.
Shilling said rural broadband is about more than just access, it’s also about speed. Shilling said Walker’s $35 million proposal is a step in the right direction but it has to address access and speed. Shilling emphasized that broadband access is about more than students getting online, saying it’s about hospitals and economic development for companies in rural areas.