State Views: Deadline looming to address concerns of middle class families

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Rep. Andy Jorgensen
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Do you thrive under pressure?

Anyone who’s ever wrapped presents on Christmas Eve, or written that 20-page research paper the night before it was due, or cleaned the house in the few minutes left before guests arrive knows we can do amazing things in the “11th hour.” I’m hoping my colleagues are the type of people who work harder and better with a deadline looming. I’m told we may only have another eight or 10 days of Assembly floor action left before Republican leaders close the 2013-14 session, and so much work is left to be done.

Wisconsin ranks 38th in the nation in job growth over the past two years and is projected to rank 45th in the nation in job growth through 2016. Those statistics are no surprise; the numbers on the dial haven’t changed much in the past couple years—and most of us know folks who continue to struggle to find work.

Like Republicans, Democrats have ideas to boost businesses and generate more job opportunity, but too often this past year, legislative progress has been hampered by political games. It’s my sincere hope that, in 2014, we can set aside differences to strengthen our economy. I’m ready and willing to work with anyone on my proposals: the Made in America bill, which requires the state to purchase construction materials from companies operating in the United States, and the Marketing Manufacturers and Keeping Employees—or MMAKE—package, which would help small and mid-sized manufacturers create supply chains across the country and around the world that will result in more contracts and more jobs.

The Legislature should also take action to address the student loan debt crisis in 2014. Recent studies show that more than 750,000 Wisconsinites hold an average student loan debt of $22,400. Instead of purchasing their first home, a car, or everyday necessities, these people are trying to pay off thousands of dollars in debt.

Democrats have introduced a fresh, common-sense solution to this problem: make student loan payments deductible from income taxes, enable the refinancing of student loans at lower interest rates, and ensure all potential borrowers have the facts on what their loans will actually cost. The “Higher Ed, Lower Debt” bill has been waiting for a hearing for more than two months.

We’re also pushing for reinvestments in our K-12 public educational system. With a new, balanced funding proposal, we aim to ease the strain placed on schools in the past two budget cycles. Our proposal guarantees a base level of support per student and links levy growth to inflation so school districts can keep pace with economic changes.

Lawmakers should also consider plans that ensure fair, nonpartisan redistricting in the future, and we should correct inaction on the proposed Medicaid expansion to lower costs for taxpayers and expand lifeline health care coverage for all Wisconsinites.

With the clock ticking, the Legislature has a long “to do” list. Let’s get to work!

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, serves the 43rd Assembly District, including parts of Dane, Jefferson, Rock and Walworth counties. He also serves as the Assembly Democratic Caucus chairman. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708; phone 888-534-0043; email Rep.Jorgensen@legis.Wisconsin.gov.

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