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Meyers visits Mercer


Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

STATE REP. Beth Meyers talks to a group of residents about concerns they have regarding Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget Friday in the Mercer Community Center.


MERCER, Wis. - A small group of residents turned out at the Mercer Community Center Friday for a listening session with State Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield, on Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget.

Meyers said she has held 17 previous listening sessions around her state Assembly district, with Mercer being the last event planned.

She said more than 100 subjects had been brought up by residents in the various meetings, with some common themes being transportation funding and health care access.

"My biggest concern about Medicaid funding is that the state of Wisconsin is going to apply for a federal block grant," Meyers said in response to a Mercer resident's question. "Right now, it's a 60/40 match for Medicaid. And if we get the block grant, we will get a certain pot of money and when it's gone, it's gone. I don't see Wisconsin with a pot of gold in a backroom somewhere, where we'll just pull additional funds out (when the federal money is gone)."

The Mercer participants identified a range of issues they felt were important to address in the upcoming budget - ranging from public education funding and apprenticeship programs for the trades to the need to increase funding to combat firefighters and broadband Internet expansion.

"If we're going to change the demographics of northern Wisconsin from the aging population we have right now, to younger people actually staying here or moving here, we need 21st century technology - or we're just going to age out," Meyers said.

While several people, including Meyers, said the various broadband expansion projects have been helpful; there seemed to be a general consensus the money the state was budgeting for broadband isn't nearly enough to come close to addressing the problem without adequate service.

"The problem in my mind is, too many people think of Internet as a luxury item," Teresa Schmidt said. "It needs to be considered a basic utility, like power or telephone. It is the primary connectivity for so many people now, and that is only going to increase. It's as vital to living a connected life as the telephone was in the early 1900s."

Meyers acknowledged that as the Democrats are the minority party in both houses of the state legislature, she has limited power to enact changes to the budget.

She also urged residents to contact their representatives to let their voices be heard on whatever issues they find important.


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