November 19, 2008

Racine area well represented on state's budget-writing committee

Eastern Racine County will have a triumvirate of voices on the state's budget-writing committee next year.

The Democrats appointed Rep. Cory Mason and Sen. John Lehman, both of Racine, to the Joint Finance Committee, and the Republicans appointed Rep. Robin Vos, of Caledonia, to the 16-member Joint Finance Committee.

That's an extraordinary amount of power for one county, Lehman noted.

"I’m especially looking forward to working on a bipartisan basis with
Representatives Mason and Vos to represent our interests here in Racine County," he said.

Last budget, the city of Racine received $500,000 to work toward reducing its childhoood obesity rate. This budget, Democrats are aiming at building KRM from Kenosha to Milwaukee with stops in Racine and Caledonia. The trick is funding the train, which could be tough in a state budget with a $5 billion deficit.

But Democrats control 12 of the 16 seats on the Joint Finance Committee, which gives them free reign over the state budget. In recent budgets, Democrats and Republicans were evenly split on the committee 8-8 and were forced to compromise on nearly every contentious issue.

KRM was stripped from the budget by the Joint Finance Committee in the last budget. Vos and his Republican colleagues opposed the proposal as it was presented. They want local referendums on the commuter rail train.

Democrats took over the Joint Finance Committee after winning control of the Assembly on Nov. 4. They now control both the Assembly and the Senate, and the governor's office, giving state Democrats firm control over the budget process for the first time in over 20 years.

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