By Karen Stokes
The Joint Finance Committee convened on Tuesday once again to tackle Governor Scott Walker’s 2015-2017 proposed budget.
The committee voted to lessen the biennial budget cuts to public television and radio.
Walker proposed a nearly $5 million budget cut, but the Republican led committee voted 12-4 to reduce the cut to $2.3 million over the next two years.
Republicans and Democrats who didn’t see eye to eye on the level of restoration of the funds were sometimes confrontational, but one thing they did agree on was the importance of public TV and radio in Wisconsin.
Republican argued tht public broadcasting can make up the difference through fundraising and utilize less from taxpayer money.
Democrats offered that any cuts will put public broadcasting in jeopardy, and they called restoration of the full $5 million.
According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the State of Wisconsin is covering nearly 40 percent of public TV revenue.
“We need to get where most states are, where they’re able to raise about 80 percent of funds through fundraising. Wisconsin Public TV isn’t keeping up” said Representative Dean Knudson (R-Hudson).
“Public TV and radio is who we are. It connects us from one corner of the state to the other.
There’s some wonderful programming about this state,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). “We shouldn’t compare ourselves to other states.”
Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) recounted to the committee about the great programming including Downton Abbey and how many residents in his area have Downton Abbey viewing parties and dress as the characters of the show, which takes place in early 20th century Britain.
“Wisconsin Public television is one of the gems we have in the state,” said Sen. Olsen.
Nearly 500,000 people in Wisconsin watch and listen to shows and emergency and Amber alerts carried on Milwaukee public TV and radio.
“This is the second week in a row that you say you love something that you cut.
The reduction of $2.4 million would hurt Public Broadcasting,” Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said as she advised the Republicans. “You need to put your money where your mouths are. Public radio and TV are always fundraising. We need to do our part.”
The public’s opinion on the state budget has been negative according to the latest Marquette Law School poll. The poll taken in April shows 38 percent of participants say the budget is worse than it was a few years ago. In October 2014, 27 percent said the budget was worse than a few years ago.
Likely to make a run for the White House, Scott Walker has a falling job approval rating with Wisconsin voters.
The April 2015 Marquette poll has Walker falling to 41 percent. In the previous poll, Walker had a 49 percent approval rating.