It's a road show without an antique in sight: dates have announced for public hearings on the state's next two year spending plan.
Locations for the six hearings may not get any kudos from northern Wisconsin residents. None of them are happening north of Highway 8, a decision Joint Committee on Finance co-chair, Senator Mark Miller, defends.
"The farther north we go, the more it costs, and the likelihood that we would stay overnight and have hotel bills," says Miller, a Monona Democrat. "These (locations) are all within reasonable commuting distance of Madison." The hearing schedule : March 23 in Sparta, March 25 in West Allis, March 27 in Eau Claire, March 30 in Racine, April 1 in Appleton, April 3 in Cambridge. "We do have a wide distribution," says Miller. "We are able to cover the vast majority in terms of population."
Miller says the hearings allow local officials and ordinary state residents a chance to sound off on state spending priorities. "They bring the concerns as to how the budget affects them," he says. "That's very important to hear. There are lobbyists that come to talk to us in Madison, but we go around the state so that regular people have an opportunity to tell us how this budget affects them. Sometimes we don't get the complete picture, and by having these public hearings we hear the local officials and we hear the individuals. It's very important."