BLOOMER – Marge Helgerson of Cornell has spotted a trend that disturbs her.
Helgerson said she has worked 17 years at the Cornell Food Pantry. She is seeing more and more people having to get food from the pantry. Others are saying they can’t afford paying for their prescriptions, she said.
“I can see where people are hurting,” she told 23rd District state Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Eau Claire) and 67th District state Rep. Tom Larson (R-Colfax) during a listening session in Bloomer, which drew an overflow crowd.
Most of the speakers in the crowded community room of the G.E. Bleskachek Family Library in Bloomer quietly made their points.
But the session at times reflected the raucous debate in Madison over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plans.
For instance, Moulton told Helgerson that the governor’s two-year budget plan would leave intact the state’s SeniorCare program, which helps pay for prescription drugs for people over age 65.
That answer was greeted elsewhere in the audience with skepticism Walker will deliver on that.
“Can we trust him?” one person shouted.
There were other times when answers by either Larson or Moulton were greeted by groans or raised voices contesting the points.
Bloomer kindergarten teacher Cindy Michaelis worried about a projected $580,000 shortfall in the Bloomer School District. The district, which has an annual budget of about $12 million, is looking at laying off staff or reducing services to make up for the shortfall.
She said the state budget controversy has caused divisions among people she knows, including her family. She said she is sadden that people can’t listen to one another.
“Let’s do some consensus bargaining,” Michaelis said.
She was greeted by applause when she said that people should share ideas and listen to each other.
Bloomer Superintendent Mary Randall called for a change in the way tax levy credits are extended to people who own property but live outside of Wisconsin.
“I think property levy credits should go to primary property owners in Wisconsin,” Randall said.
Moulton said doing that may conflict with the uniformity clause in the Wisconsin Constitution, but he would check on that.
Randall said with the proposed education cuts and revenue caps, “You squeezed us at both ends.”
Edward Hebert of Chippewa Falls pointed to a recent article in the Herald that showed an increased number of Chippewa County students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
He criticized Gov. Walker’s proposed budget cuts to schools and Badgercare, a state health care program.
“They’re attacking the absolute wrong part of society,” he said of the cuts.
Cal Kraemer, a Chippewa Falls resident who is a former Chippewa County agriculture agent, asked why at a time Wisconsin has a tax deficit it is finding ways to give tax breaks to people in the upper incomes.
“Why are we afraid to tax the wealthy?” he asked.
Bloomer resident James Madison said Moulton’s decision to vote for Walker’s budget repair bill was ludicrous, saying it harmed the young, the old and the less fortunate.
“You’ve just taken middle class people and you’ve just cut $8,000 to $10,000 of their income,” Madison said.
He said he’s sick and tired of the state giving tax breaks to corporations and making those breaks on the backs of working people.
“If you want to align yourself with Joseph McCarthy and Scott Walker, go ahead,” he told Moulton and Larson.
Gary Bergstrom of Bloomer thanked the legislators for coming to Bloomer. “It had to take a lot of courage for you to come out and face your constituents,” he said.
Bergstrom passionately told Moulton and Larson that leaders are expected to unify people.
“I can’t believe how divided we’ve come,” he said.