Peter Barca: Make 2014 the Year of the Middle Class

From my email inbox comes Democratic State Rep. Peter Barca’s latest column.

Decisions made inside the state Capitol in 2013 have not been kind to Wisconsin’s working, middle-class families.

Our state remained in the bottom half among states for job creation and we recently led the nation in our increase in unemployment claims. We also led the nation by kicking more people off their healthcare than any other state, and cost hard-working Wisconsin taxpayers even more by rejecting our share of tax dollars that we sent to Washington. Millions in additional taxpayer money was diverted away from public schools to private schools through expanding vouchers statewide. These are not the things I want our proud state to be known for doing.

It is my hope that the focus of enough elected leaders changes for 2014 that we can make next year truly the “Year of the Middle Class” in Wisconsin.

As Democratic members of the Assembly, we have identified four key areas for the legislature to focus on improving so that in 2014 we can have a positive impact on real people’s everyday lives: education, jobs and the economy, access to healthcare and clean, citizen-driven government.

In education, we need to invest in public schools & worker training – with a focus on student achievement, fair funding and holding all schools that receive taxpayer dollars accountable to the public. We need to ensure that college is a path to a good career – not a path to huge debt. Our state now ranks in the top ten for the high percent of students who graduate with debt.

Wisconsin’s economic development efforts must be able to effectively and efficiently help bring jobs to Wisconsin, without scandal, lost loans and constant turn over. Wisconsin was 11th in job creation before Gov. Walker took office and has fallen to 37th. There can be no more excuses – workers need training and we must get people back to work quickly.

Put common sense and the taxpayers – and most especially people who need access to life-saving healthcare – before political ideology. Turning down federal funding that could have covered tens of thousands more people and saved taxpayers hundreds of millions in healthcare costs defies logic, and compassion.

The public has the right to see what their government is doing – no more secrecy oaths or backroom deals with no public input. Elected officials should not be afraid of letting the public speak on important issues like nonpartisan redistricting.

What shouldn’t be a part of our agenda for 2014 are things my colleagues across the aisle focused their attention on in 2013 — attacks on voting, on women’s health, on funding for public schools. We fought those measures. And if our colleagues continue to push such things, we will continue to stand up for the people of Wisconsin. Bipartisanship means finding middle ground, not blindly rubberstamping ideas that hurt real people.

But it is my sincere hope that both parties can agree to make 2014 the Year of the Middle Class with a focus on core issues that impact the real things that we all find ourselves talking about around our holiday tables and gatherings. Let’s do what we can to make those holiday conversations more cheerful and optimistic at the close of next year.

Happy holidays and a prosperous 2014 for you…and for Wisconsin.


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