"A lot of concern:" Lawmakers in Milwaukee to hear public comment on state's budget proposal

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Members of Wisconsin's budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance is traveling the state to get input on the proposed budget -- and on Friday, March 20th, lawmakers were in Milwaukee at Alverno College for their second of four public hearings.

More than 500 people came out Friday to voice their opinion on the state's budget proposal. Paul Galbraith with the Commercial Association of Realtors was one of them. He was there to talk about the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. Galbraith's organization hopes the city, county and state will develop a joint financing option for the project.

"We`ve seen in other cities that these arenas are catalytic. They result in development in the surrounding area that has seen about a two-fold return on investment," Galbraith said.

Other topics discussed during Friday's hearing were K-12 education and money for the disabled.

Bara Beckert with Disability Rights of Wisconsin says the budget would eliminate a program they say is cost-effective and helps those with disabilities.

"That`s why we`re ringing the alarm bell very loud with legislators to say 'take this out of the budget.' It`s not a good idea. It`s not going to save money and it`s going to put the lives of 50,000 people into chaos and uncertainty, on a model that has not been defined and as far as we can tell doesn`t exist anywhere else in the country," Beckert said.

Wisconsin senators and Assembly representatives that make up the Joint Committee on Finance took in all of the advice.

"Some people think it doesn`t matter what happens here at the public hearings but indeed it does. If you look at the past, we have listened and changed based on what we heard," Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said.

Democrats and Republicans say they're all ears, and they encourage the public to continue to provide feedback on the budget proposal.

"Anytime you think people aren`t paying attention,  they surprise you -- not only with how much they`re following things, but the direct impact on their lives. It`s not just about numbers and what the government's doing. It`s about 'this is how these programs impact me,' and right now we`re seeing a lot of people who have a lot of concern about this budget on their lives," Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said.

Transitional jobs and public transportation were other topics discussed at this hearing.

Two more public hearings are planned:

Monday, March 23rd from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County Fine Arts Theatre at 1800 College Drive in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

Thursday, March 26th from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Reedsburg High School CAL Center Auditorium at 1100 south Albert Avenue in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.