• Iowa BadgerCare Fix Logo

Following is the text of the speech given by Joel Lewis, Marathon County Board Supervisor from the 5th Supervisory District, at the February 19, 2015 Citizen Action of Wisconsin media event in Wausau, WI. Labeled the “Badgercare Iowa Fix,” the event was to encourage Wisconsin legislators to accept Federal Medicaid/BadgerCare dollars as the state of Iowa did, rather than inflict huge cuts to the University of Wisconsin system.

At a time when politicians are bickering over how to best create jobs, I can hardly believe that we are seeing budgets from our elected officials that could kill or are killing jobs! Our governor has run on a continued promise of creating jobs, as well as many others who have been elected to serve the best interests of the people. I am not trying to be partisan here…I believe that creating good family sustaining jobs and maintaining the ones we already have is vital for our economic future. The safety, health and vitality of our communities should be a nonpartisan issue.

Cutting $300 million from the UW System by FY 2016 will kill jobs, raise tuition for a population that is already struggling to afford college, and makeNo To UW Cuts (2) it harder for many to succeed in accomplishing the American Dream. It will lead to more young Marathon County residents having to stick with that low paying service industry job, rather than going to school and achieving more. This means more workers needing to work multiple jobs to survive and more workers needing public assistance to provide for their families. Why are we taking the tools needed to achieve success away from the hard working middle class and poor? We already know that the economic picture here in Marathon County and across the state is not a pretty one. Milwaukee was just ranked the 2nd poorest city in the country! We might be faring better than that here for now, but the United Way 2013-2015 LIFE Report indicates that this trend of lower incomes is worsening here as well. According to the 2013 LIFE Community Survey respondents: “the chief concern facing Marathon County is the lack of high wage jobs and opportunities for advancement in our current economy.” This is why we cannot retain young talent in our community the way we’d like to. This is why we’re seeing a rise in crimes for profit, such as drug dealing and sex trafficking. We cannot afford to cut the UW . . . it’s a job creator . . . it’s a family sustainer . . . it’s part of the backbone of our community. It’s also our investment . . . Marathon County has invested heavily in our local UW because of the gains in economic development that we know the college gives us.

As a county board supervisor and Marathon County resident, I had the privilege of listening to Dean Keith Montgomery of UW-Marathon County (UWMC) speak about the economic impacts locally, of the proposed budget cuts. Before I highlight some of the figures he shared with us, I’d like to read Marathon County’s Vision Statement:

Marathon County Government leads by providing high quality infrastructure and integrated services and by developing trusting, collaborative relationships among diverse partners. It is proactive in enhancing health and safety, protecting the environment, and providing cultural, recreational, and economic opportunities which make Marathon County and the surrounding area a preferred place to live, work, visit, and do business.

Now to communicate the economic impact of the UWMC:

The UWMC creates 256 jobs right here in Marathon County, for a combined total community income of $14.1 million. Forty-seven percent of the students at this campus come from the poorest 40 percent of households. Fifty-nine percent are first generation college students. Sixteen percent of new freshmen are underrepresented minorities, 26 percent are non-traditional students and 43 percent are part-time, due to working, family, or other reasons. Because of the fiscal integrity of our local UW, they are able to offer classes at a lower cost to students. On average, full-time enrollment costs students $5,120 annually for tuition and fees. This also provides a lower cost to taxpayers.

University of Wisconsin Marathon CountyAs you can plainly see, UWMC is one of the biggest catalysts that we have locally, to make Marathon County’s Vision a reality. It provides family sustaining jobs for 256 families/workers, and it gives Marathon County the ability to train and employ top of the line graduates. It is a significant source of revenue for the area and it spurs economic development. Cutting their budget would only move us backward in this already slowly recovering economy. The proposed cuts to the UW system could cut 8 jobs from UWMC. This could result in approx. half of a million dollars of lost revenue for the area. Also, the way the cuts are being applied means one of the only ways for the UW to make up for it, besides the 8 job cuts, is by raising tuition fees. In a day when more and more Americans are consumed by student loan debt, this is wrong.

Another issue that the UW and other colleges will help us face in the future is the baby boomer population and the fact that they are starting to age out of the workforce. It is believed that this could likely lead to a surplus of jobs without enough workers. It also could worsen the skills gap. Investing in our UW is one of the best ways we can be prepared for this future hurdle.

The bill being presented today offers a clear solution that could fix multiple problems, while also adding $15 million to the budget that we didn’t have before. If we accept the Medicaid dollars being offered by the federal government, WI could see revenues of $315 million or more from the extra healthcare jobs, increased consumer confidence and more healthcare enrollments. Also, we would no longer need to cut the UW system by $300 million. It is right for creating jobs, it is right for the education of current and future generations, and it is right for Marathon County. Two summers ago, the Marathon County Board passed a resolution stating they wanted Governor Walker to accept the Medicaid money, recognizing the negative economic impacts. Today, we are here pleading with you, Governor Walker, to take the BadgerCare money and save the UW.

Thank you to all who came here today, and thank you for your time.


To watch a video of the speech, please click on the link below: