Believe it or not, a common theme from both sides of the aisle in the state Capitol is a love of Wisconsin. Democrats and Republicans both cheer for the Packers, enjoy a good casserole, and cherish our beautiful outdoor spaces. We all love our children and want a brighter future for them. Despite these shared goals, our values and the policy decisions to get there differ drastically. And that really matters.
The agenda that Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans have pursued during their time in control has confirmed people’s worst fears about politics — that the Capitol can be a cynical, negative place. Their policies punish the poor, benefit the wealthiest among us, and harm our economic growth. They fail to realize the basic premise that private prosperity is not possible without a strong government providing support. You and I both know that for Wisconsin to move forward, we must take a different direction.
Assembly Democrats recently put out a new policy agenda entitled Bring Back the Middle Class. It is a positive vision that truly strengthens our state. These are not political talking points; they are what we’ve heard from our friends and neighbors across our state — real concerns that everyday Wisconsinites are losing sleep over.
Too often we hear that child care is a heavy burden on working families. That is why we introduced a bill to make child care more affordable through additional tax credits. We also know that these same working families can have their employment put in jeopardy due to an illness. We have a bill that would allow people to earn sick days. As education is becoming more important in the modern workforce, student loan debt has become a national crisis, topping a trillion dollars. Under our plan, borrowers would be able to refinance their loans just like a home mortgage. And finally, with an aging population, people often call my office worried about retirement security. Our plan would allow everyone in our state to invest in the Wisconsin Retirement System, regardless of whether or not they are a public employee.
It is our job as politicians to make the case that our plan is the right course for our state to pursue. Sometimes it is difficult to hone that message because there are countless things that we, as Democrats, care about.
The Bring Back the Middle Class agenda encompasses what we believe in policy, but it can be boiled down to this: We care about people. We believe that our government of, by and for the people is here to make our state a better place to live, work and play.
Democrats want to support the middle class and provide ladders of opportunities for those who want to achieve the American dream. We want to put extra money into the pockets of working families, which we know will boost our local economy. We want to fully fund and protect a world-class public education system from early child care all the way through college. We want to ensure that health care is treated as a right rather than a privilege for those who can afford it. Democrats want to show every person in Wisconsin that we do better when we all do better.
My community matters deeply to me. Along with my family, it is what makes me whole. The reason I am a Democrat is because I know these policies will make us whole again as a state. It is time to bring back our middle class and time to bring back the Wisconsin we all know and love.
Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is a member of the state Assembly.
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