Lawmakers hold public hearing regarding budget issues

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Lawmakers from the Joint Finance Committee are holding a public hearing in Greendale Thursday, April 4th to discuss Gov. Walker's proposed budget and to get feedback on a wide range of issues from taxes, residency rules, BadgerCare, education and mass transit.

Before the hearing began, nearly 50 people held a rally outside the Greendale High School auditorium. Those individuals are asking the state Legislature to change the budget to accept federal funding to expand the state's healthcare program for the poor and disabled.

Governor Walker rejected billions of dollars from President's Obama's Affordable Care Act -- saying the expansion would cost the state money in the long run.

Those rallying say the 89,000 adults who rely on BadgerCare would be cut from the program if it wasn't expanded.

"What the Governor is afraid of is that the federal government, who has not passed a budget in four years, would say 'okay come in for three years,' and then not have the funding. So right now, we are one of the most insured states in the country and we are very proud of that," State Sen. Albert Darling said.

Other issues that are expected to be discussed during the public hearing include the controversial residency rule in Milwaukee, funding for education and mass transit.

Gov. Walker proposes lifting Milwaukee’s 80-year-old residency rule requiring city employees to live within city limits. Mayor Barrett says it’s a gift to the unions that supported him in his last two elections.

During the public hearing Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele asked legislators to restore the 10% cut in transit funding with interest. According to a press release, routes could be cut and fares might increase if the state does not add money back into the system.

“Few priorities are as important in the current economy as creating and maintaining private sector jobs,” Abele said. “That is why we are especially concerned about the proposed budget’s effects on our already severely strained transit system.”

Abele is also urging the JFC to restore money for statewide Child Support Services. The proposed reduction of $4.25 million state-wide would result in an additional loss of $8.5 million in federal matching revenues. Any cut to Child Support Services reduces the County’s ability to empower families.

The hearing is expected to last until 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4th.