(Mandy Wright is a candidate for the 85h Assembly District of Wisconsin)

When I was a kid growing up just outside of Wausau, my parents knew how to be frugal, so we’d have enough for the future. My mom grew up on a farm and made a ham dinner that turned into sandwiches, then into ham salad, and finally, she’d boil the bone for split pea soup. Now split pea soup is my kids’ favorite dinner.

We should apply the same frugality to our hard-earned tax dollars, so our families and communities will have enough for the future. Despite all the fiscally conservative rhetoric and cuts to important services, Republicans are spending more than ever in our state budget. Your elected Republicans have passed up opportunities to strengthen the middle class while saving taxpayers money.

Three things should be done right now to help working families without spending a dime.

  1. New opportunities for the private retirement sector.

The Wisconsin Retirement system for state employees and elected officials is one of the best pension plans in the country. We should create a safe, secure and stable retirement option available to every worker in Wisconsin with an independent board that takes the strengths of our public pension system and makes them available to private sector workers. Instead of taking away from one group, we can make a system where everyone wins.

  1. Lower student debt for higher education.

If the cost of an education is scaring off our best and our brightest or burying families in debt, we need to rethink our approach to student loans. Wisconsin Republicans have kept it impossible to refinance student loans when rates improve, like we might with a mortgage.

I support the Higher Ed/Lower Debt Bill. Already Wisconsinites have more than $19 billion in student loan debt for 800,000 citizens. We are kneecapping Wisconsin’s greatest economic engine: our consumers. An education is a smart investment that pays off for our workers and our state. Wisconsin employers list the need for qualified employees as a top concern. Education is workforce development, and we need to do more to accommodate our students.

  1. Drive down the cost of health care.

Now that Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential bid is over, the political posturing surrounding BadgerCare must end. We have to get serious about decreasing the cost of health care. We could bring more than $300 million back into the state over the next two years and enroll 80,000 more Wisconsinites in BadgerCare if we accepted federal funds that remain available.

It’s irresponsible to let the tax money we’ve paid to the federal government be sent to other states.

As I travel around central Wisconsin, I hear from families and businesses about crippling health care costs. The situation is not sustainable. Many other Republican legislatures have accepted the federal Medicaid funds, and waiting only compounds the problem.

The inaction we’ve seen in Madison on these issues is inexcusablemore than $1 billion has been lost to our state just from refusing Medicaid funds. We need leaders who listen and understand that an education, a secure retirement and access to affordable health care will empower working Wisconsinites to improve our financial future. By putting aside partisanship and enacting common sense, cost-free legislation, Wisconsin’s middle class can thrive again.