Advocate For WaterGovernor Walker's proposed state budget for the next two years is chock full of major cuts to important public services, popular programs, environmental protections and the staff who make sure laws to protect the environment are followed. On the other hand, there's lots of money allocated for more highways, the shadowy new Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, more highways, tourism marketing ("Come visit our pea green lakes!"), and more highways. The Legislature intends to act fast on these sweeping changes; it is critical to add your voice to the debate to make sure environmental issues don't get lost in the shuffle.
River Alliance is working closely with other conservation organizations to highlight and fight back the many assaults on environmental programs and laws. While we know you depend on us to be the voice for rivers, this effort will take a full chorus. Our only hope is for decision makers to hear loud and clear, early and often from their constituents - you.
The three big water concerns legislators need to hear about are:
· Keep oversight of commercial construction site erosion control in DNR.
Erosion from construction sites is the major source of sediment in our waters, and the budget moves this responsibility to a department with no experience or expertise in erosion control.
· Maintain the rules for limiting phosphorus in waterways.
Phosphorus, the leading cause of algae growth, is in fertilizer, manure and wastewater. Just last summer, with broad support, new rules were approved and are now being set aside without having a chance to work.
· Maintain the rules for reducing polluted runoff from cities.
Since 2002, state rules have required cities to work towards reducing polluted runoff, and just last year, the rules were revised to give cities more time and flexibility to hit the goal. Many cities have spent lots to get there, but the proposed budget lets laggards off the hook.
There are many ways to make your views known, and the more the merrier.
Contact Your Legislators
First and foremost and easiest of all is to contact your legislators directly. You can find contact information for your senator and representative here , and register your comments with a quick email or phone call.
Contact the Joint Finance Committee
The Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature is responsible for detailed review of the state budget. It is especially important to contact your legislator if they are a member of the committee, but the entire committee should hear from you:
Senator Alberta Darling, Co-Chair Representative Robin Vos, Co-Chair
Senator Luther Olsen Representative Dan Meyer
Senator Sheila Harsdorf Representative Dan LeMahieu
Senator Joe Leibham Representative John Nygren
Senator Glenn Grothman Representative Pat Strachota
Senator Randy Hopper Representative Joel Kleefisch
Senator Lena Taylor Representative Tamara Grigsby
Senator Robert Jauch Representative Jennifer Shilling
Attend a Hearing
You can make your points in person. The Joint Finance Committee is holding four all-day hearings, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.:
Stevens Point - Thursday, April 7
Superior - Friday, April 8
West Allis - Monday, April 11
Arcadia - Wednesday, April 13
For more details on location and time, see here (please note, the April 8 meeting has been moved from Minong to UW Superior). If you have the time and inclination to attend one of the JFC hearings, be prepared for a big crowd.
A number of legislators are dismayed that the Joint Finance Committee is holding so few public hearings and only during the day when most people are at work, and have organized additional hearings around the state:
Oshkosh - Saturday, April 9th (10:30am - 4:30pm)
Eau Claire - Saturday, April 9th (10:00am - 4:00pm)
Racine - Monday, April 11th (5:00pm - 10:00pm)
Baraboo - Friday, April 15th (1:00pm - 7:00pm)
Greenbay - Saturday, April 16th (10:00am - 4:00pm)
Rhinelander - Saturday, April 16th (10:00am - 1:00pm)
Wausau - Monday, April 18th (1:00pm - 7:00pm)
Janesville - Wednesday, April 20th (1:00pm - 6:00pm)
La Crosse - Monday, April 25th (1:00pm - 7:00pm)
Appleton - Monday, April 25th (1:00pm - 7:00pm)
Kenosha - Monday, May 9th (10:00am - 3:00pm)
See here for details about locations.
Whether you email, call or appear in person, the same basic rules apply:
· Always give your full name and address - your legislator needs to know you live in their district.
· Tell your story - decision makers want to know why you care. Whether it's concern for your favorite river, your property value or the future of your children, making it personal goes a long way.
· Be clear, concise, to the point and polite - you can use the three talking points above, or contact us for more background and assistance.
However you feel most comfortable expressing your views is up to you, just so you do!
If you want to learn more or get tips on who to contact and what to say, please give us a call and we will be happy to help. We'll continue to alert you to hearings, amendments to the budget that help or hurt, and keep you abreast of critical points in the process. We've made so much progress in the past several years in protecting our water resources; please join in to help salvage what we've gained.
Water Policy Program Manager
608-257-2424, ext. 111