Strengthen Wisconsin’s Infrastructure and Communities

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Our economy is only as strong as the communities within it. We need to assertively pursue strategies to make sure that all our communities can thrive and attract new residents and businesses—from the rural towns in the northwest to central Milwaukee and everywhere in between. Key to strengthening our communities is the process of acknowledging and reversing policies that have stripped investment from neighborhoods of color.

Here are four strategies we can use to ensure that Wisconsin communities are great places to live, work, and do business.

Promote safe, affordable housing

Our progress towards shared prosperity is slowed when Wisconsin residents are forced to struggle to find homes for their family.

We should restore and expand renters’ rights by turning back more than 100 changes made since 2011 in state housing law that hurt vulnerable Wisconsin residents. The harmful changes include accelerating the eviction process, expanding grounds for evictions, giving landlords greater power to look into a potential tenant’s credit and criminal histories, and overriding local ordinances protecting tenants’ rights. The legislature needs to roll back these changes and restore to local governments the authority to balance landlord and tenant rights in their communities.

We also need to make sure that homeowners on fixed incomes can stay in their homes, and can do so by strengthening the Homestead Credit, which delivers targeted property tax relief to households with low incomes.

Families should be safe in their homes, not endangered by them. State and local health agencies need to make it a priority to address the dangers posed by lead paint and pipes in Wisconsin homes and businesses. Research has shown that each dollar invested in reducing childhood lead exposure results pays for itself in net cost savings from improved health outcomes after just three years.

Resources for communities

Our local communities are the lifeblood of Wisconsin, and we need to make sure they have the resources they need to remain economically vibrant. The state government shares a portion of its revenue with local governments, but the amount shared has been frozen for many years and has not kept up with the cost of living. The result is that local governments have been less able to invest in local roads, neighborhoods, and services. State lawmakers should take a different approach and make sure that local governments get the resources they need to thrive.

Connect rural communities to high speed internet

Having access to high-speed internet services is a cornerstone of economic development in today’s economy. But businesses, families, and schools in some parts of Wisconsin have access only to services that operate at slower speeds, limiting business development and economic opportunities. To make sure rural communities aren’t left behind as we shift to high-speed internet, we should invest in partnerships to expand access in underserved areas and expand the use of telecommunications cooperatives to provide internet services.

Support a dependable transportation network

Wisconsin communities need a solid transportation network that is regularly maintained and repaired. We can accomplish that by making sure that gas tax revenues are spent to repair roads all over the state, rather than paying for the expansion of highways needed by the Foxconn plant.

We need to invest more in public transportation. Public transit serves at least three functions: it helps those who don’t drive get to where they need to go, it can be a part of a strategy to reduce pollution, and it can help to reduce racial disparities in employment by providing access to jobs in different neighborhoods. Yet since it was reduced in 2012, state funding for mass transit has remained below 2009 levels, and local taxpayers are bearing an increasing proportion of the cost for diminishing service levels. Increasing state support for public transportation will mean more bus routes, more job access, more support for disability transit, and increased opportunities for people of color who are disproportionately burdened by cuts in transit service.