Hundreds In Eau Claire Weigh in on State Budget - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Hundreds In Eau Claire Weigh in on State Budget


Eau Claire (WQOW)- A public hearing was held Friday afternoon in Eau Claire and there were all kinds of issues brought up to the Joint Finance Committee.  That is the committees that will take the governor's budget proposal, make adjustments to it and then send its own version to the legislature. 

The concert hall in the UW-Eau Claire Haas Fine Arts Center seats about 600.  At various times Friday afternoon, it was filled to near capacity with dozens eager to voice their concerns directly to the state's Joint Committee on Finance.

Eau Claire County Board Member Bruce Willett said, "We know that your policies make quite a bit of difference in where we are."

UW-Eau Claire was well represented.  Both students and faculty spoke out about proposed cuts across the UW system. $174 million in reductions over the next two years, with UW-Eau Claire taking an $8.7 million hit.

Brian Levin-Stankevich, the university's chancellor said, "This will in the long run reduce the number of courses available to our students that will mean it will take them longer to graduate."

Student, Meghan Charlier emphasized the impact saying, "By increasing the time to (get a) degree we are also increasing the amount of money students will have to spend."]

Even with cuts to higher education, Governor Doyle made it clear he was not making any major cuts to elementary and secondary schools.  But, local superintendents told the committee revenue caps and other restraints have forced districts to make major cuts anyway.

Kerry Jacobson, the Osseo-Fairchild superintendent said, "Not just co-curricular but even curricular activities in music and art are going by the way side as schools struggle to make ends meet."

There were groups that stood out from the rest; many hoping to draw attention to a host of fees that would go up over the next two years under the governor's plan.

Bill Hess of Gold'N Plump Chicken in Arcadia said, "We are a very small fish in a big sea of competitors."]

If passed, many say it will be the small fish who will be paying more.  Hess estimates an increase in slaughter assessment fees will cost him 430-thousand dollars.

That's  money he says he can't afford to part with, "We were hoping to expand in the next 2 years and projected to add jobs and we will now reconsider that due to the budget proposal to create a per-head slaughter assessment."]

Many who spoke Friday afternoon wanted to make it clear that this budget affects their lives and their livelihoods.

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