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Five Referendum Questions on County Ballot

Weigh in on one constitutional amendment and four advisory matters

Oct. 21, 2014
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Milwaukee County voters may be in for a bit of a shock when they find five referendum questions on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. One is a statewide referendum that would amend the state constitution, while four are on the county ballot as advisory questions. Here’s our guide to them:

 

Transportation Fund Constitutional Amendment

Statewide Question: “Shall section 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin’s transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?”

This is a binding referendum that would amend the state constitution to protect road-builders. If this amendment passes, it would prohibit any transfers from the Transportation Fund into other areas of state government, even in times of emergency. If there are shortfalls in parts of the state budget, the governor and Legislature couldn’t allocate transportation funds to fill these holes. The amendment doesn’t state that general funds could not be used to fill shortfalls in the Transportation Fund, however. This amendment would give the transportation system constitutional protections that other state responsibilities—such as education, health care and public safety—do not. Voting no on this question would leave things as is.

 

Constitutional Rights for Corporations

County Question: “Shall the United States Constitution be amended to establish the following? 1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and 2. Money is not speech, and therefore, regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”

This advisory referendum question is part of the national Move to Amend organization’s push to undo the damage done by the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, which allows unlimited corporate spending in campaigns. Since Citizens United was a U.S. Supreme Court decision, legislative action cannot overturn it. Therefore, Move to Amend is promoting advisory referendums to allow voters to weigh in on the issue and, hopefully, push members of Congress to sponsor a constitutional amendment to clarify that corporations don’t have the same constitutional rights as human beings and also to regulate campaign contributions and spending. The campaign has won big victories across the country and in 43 Wisconsin communities, including Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, Wauwatosa, West Allis, the city of Waukesha, Madison, Dane County, and the city and county of Kenosha. A “yes” vote would register your dissatisfaction with the Citizens United ruling and the presence of corporate money in our elections.

 

BadgerCare Funding

County Question: “Shall the next State Legislature accept all available federal funds for BadgerCare to ensure that thousands of Wisconsin citizens have access to affordable health coverage?”

Gov. Scott Walker famously refused to accept $561 million in federal funds provided by the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid programs to everyone under 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal government would pay the entire costs for the first three years and then 90% of the costs. Instead, he used state taxpayer funds to slice and dice BadgerCare, ultimately kicking 63,000 people off of it. That decision will cost state taxpayers an additional $521 million in this biennial budget and the next one. Citizen Action of Wisconsin has pushed to have this advisory question on the Nov. 4 ballot in more than a dozen communities. According to Citizen Action’s crunching of Legislative Fiscal Bureau numbers, Milwaukee County could have insured 21,959 additional people under BadgerCare and drawn down $141 million additional federal funds in this biennium if Walker had accepted the full federal Medicaid expansion. Walker can change his mind at any time. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has said that she would accept the funds if she is elected.

 

Minimum Wage Boost

County Question: “Should the State of Wisconsin increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?”

Wisconsin’s minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage—$7.25—but the governor can change that at any moment. Walker has said that he doesn’t support raising the minimum wage and isn’t even sure what purpose it serves. Burke, on the other hand, supports raising it. State law requires the governor to ensure that all Wisconsin workers—not just minimum wage workers—earn a living wage. But working a full-time minimum wage job doesn’t come close to making ends meet. This advisory referendum would register your opinion on the minimum wage.

 

Milwaukee County Administrator

County Question: “Should Wisconsin Statutes be amended to allow Milwaukee County to transition its management and administrative functions from an elected County Executive to a professional County Administrator?”

This question seems to be intended to reduce the division between the Milwaukee County executive and the county board and reduce the power of politics in county government. Milwaukee County is the only county in the state that is required to have an elected county executive in charge; its position was created in 1960. The Milwaukee County executive became infinitely more powerful this past year, when Act 14 cut the power of the board and reduced its role as a check on the county executive’s initiatives. Interestingly, County Executive Chris Abele didn’t object to creating an appointed county administrator position when fielding questions during a political forum at Marquette University this spring.

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