Budget hearings offer chance to make a difference Print
Eye on the Capitol
Thursday, Mar. 12, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

When the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) staff talks to groups around the state, we emphasize that faithful citizenship is a 12-month obligation.

During the latter part of March, Catholics and others who want to be heard on how and where the state should spend our money will have a chance to do so.

They can show up at one of four hearings on the 2015 budget bill. The hearings, conducted by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance, will take place over a two-week period beginning on Monday, March 23, and concluding on Friday, April 3.

Four hearings

As was the case in past budget cycles, the Finance Committee is taking to the road. The four hearings will take place at these times and locations:

• Wednesday, March 18 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) -- Brillion High School, Endries Performing Arts Center, W1101 County Road HR, Brillion

• Friday, March 20 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) -- Alverno College, Pitman Theatre, 3400 S. 43rd St., Milwaukee

• Monday, March 23 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) -- University of Wisconsin-Barron County, Fine Arts Theatre, 1800 College Dr.,Rice Lake

• Thursday, March 26 (9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) -- Reedsburg High School, CAL Center Auditorium, 1100 South Albert Ave., Reedsburg

This schedule affords citizens a chance to be heard on the most important bill the Legislature will consider in the next two years. And they won't have to travel all the way to Madison to do it.

Hearings in the Capitol tend to feature state agency leaders and lobbyists who work in or near the Capitol for a living. Hearings held "out state" are for the convenience of the average citizen. They present an opportunity citizens should exploit.

Guidelines for citizens

Those who wish to testify should make sure to do the following:

1. Arrive early and complete a registration form. You may obtain the forms from the legislative pages who staff the hearing.

2. Plan on keeping your comments brief. Two or three minutes are enough time to explain your position. Committee members can follow up with questions if they want to know more.

3. Try to give personal or specific examples of why you support or oppose the budget item you are discussing.

4. If possible, have written copies of your testimony for the committee. This will help them keep a record of your views. If you have to leave before you are called to testify, you may leave the written testimony with a page, who will make sure the committee members receive it.

WCC priorities

WCC will post its budget priorities on the WCC website (www.wisconsincatholic.org) this month. We encourage you to address some of those issues in your testimony.

If you can't make these hearings, you will still have several weeks to contact your own legislators to share your views on the budget. And on April 8, you can attend our Catholics at the Capitol legislative day in Madison to learn more about select budget issues.

Faithful citizenship is about exercising political rights and taking advantage of political opportunities to make a difference. The Joint Committee on Finance has offered that opportunity. Now Catholics need to grasp it.

John Huebscher is executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.