Local leaders talk politics with state politicians - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Local leaders talk politics with state politicians

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Eau Claire (WQOW)- It's not often city officials get to ask state lawmakers face to face about ways to make improvements on a local level.  But that's exactly what happened Monday morning in Eau Claire.

"This is our opportunity to listen to local elected officials and their challenges and how we can collaborate as a partner," says Representative Warren Petryk.

Local and state lawmakers met early in the morning for some breakfast and to talk politics.  Legislatures were asked questions on a variety of topics, but the one they kept coming back to was how to raise enough money to improve infrastructure here in the state.

"We are looking at how do we fund transportation into the future?  How do we maintain the roads that we have and keep them up to the standards that the people of Wisconsin expect and demand," Petryk points out.

"That's on the tip of everybody's tongue," notes Representative Dana Wachs.  "It's critical right now and recently there was a report that came out from the Governor's Commission on ideas about how to raise revenue."

Governor Walker included improving infrastructure in his five goals for the new legislative session, but he says he isn't in favor of raising taxes of any kind.  That includes a gas tax and raising rates on vehicle registration.

"We are talking about a slow economic recovery nationally.  We want to get out in front of that.  Raising taxes in any form I think is not a good solution right now," explains Governor Walker.  "So we are going to find other ways to make those investments that doesn't include a tax increase."

Senator Terry Moulton echoed the governor's message, but says he is still considering raising registration fees to bring in more money.  Others don't have an answer, but say something must be done.

"We clearly need to support the infrastructure that we have and quite frankly, we need to add to it," Wachs exclaims.

But that's easier said than done.  Petryk says states are unsure about the impact President Obama's health care reform will have on Medicaid.  Because of that, lawmakers are being cautious about the budget.

"Often times, people view it as we are not giving them the money," Petryk says.  "They have to understand that we are in a very tough position economically right now and we are trying to maintain."

Other questions asked Monday morning include how Wisconsin could get more federal funding that similar states receive, and how much power local officials should have when dealing with local problems.

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