OPINION More than 200 people turned out in March for listening sessions at seven different locations in the 17th Senate District. My fellow legislators and I heard testimony from most of those people and received follow-up thoughts, ideas and concerns as well.

I heard “roads,” “roads,” “water” and “roads.” Loud and clear – all seven listening sessions echoed the same issues.

When it comes to roads, most attendees agreed. We need to improve our roads. We need more funding for roads in rural Wisconsin. We need roads – where we live – to be a priority for the state of Wisconsin.

Some attendees told us they don’t mind paying more gas tax if they know that the funds will come back to our communities. They told us the costs for repairing their vehicles after a difficult winter are more than it would cost them in increased gas taxes. They cited specific stretches of road that are particularly bad.

I couldn’t agree more. I want rural roads to be a priority. I have been very clear with Department of Transportation Secretary-Designee Craig Thompson that I will fight for rural-road funding and prioritization. I have also been clear that I will not support revenue increases unless I have assurance that funding will be directed to rural roads.

I have reached out to all nine of the County Highway Commissioners in the 17th Senate District to build a list of the most “troubled roads” in the 17th. I am now in the process of determining when each of those troubled stretches is scheduled for repair, replacement and/or maintenance. I will report back to you on this in the future.

Bottom-line, I heard you and I agree. Rural roads are one of my top priorities. I will work hard to be sure that state funding comes back to us and I will work hard to help local governments get the funding they need to improve our local and county roads.

The next priority I heard a lot about is water. Attendees want us to support and promote studying private wells and groundwater to determine if our water is safe. If it’s not, they want us to seek data-driven solutions that truly solve the problems. They want us to use science. They also want to be part of the solution.

The legislature’s Water Quality Task Force met this week, chaired by Wis. Rep. Todd Novak, R-51-Dodgeville, and with Wis. Rep. Tony Kurtz, R-50-Wonewoc, and Wis. Rep. Travis Tranel, R-49-Cuba City, as members. They created a game plan for studying and addressing those issues during the coming months. The task force will be holding public hearings all across the state, especially in southwest Wisconsin. Their scope mirrors the concerns shared by attendees at my listening sessions. I’m optimistic the dialogue will be productive.

Beyond roads and water, I heard about a number of other topics.

  • “Dark Store” protection for property-tax payers
  • agricultural economics
  • broadband
  • K-12 education funding
  • chronic wasting disease and deer management
  • stewardship program
  • solar energy
  • childcare
  • emergency medical technicians, first responders, rural emergency medical service
  • marijuana
  • rural hospitals
  • dental assistance
  • caregiver workforce
  • redistricting
  • immigration and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants
  • University of Wisconsin-System funding and tuition freeze
  • e-cigarettes

As I continue to work on these issues, I will share more information and seek your ideas.

Thank you to everyone who took time to meet us personally. I also appreciate the emails, phone calls and office visits from those who could not attend a listening session, but wanted to share input. I invite you to email or call me – any time – to share your ideas. My team is ready and willing to take your input and they always pass it on to me.

Your voice is an important part of the legislative process. While we may not always agree, I appreciate the time everyone takes to share ideas and concerns. I enjoy learning from the wide variety of perspectives and experiences in our communities. Communication is key to making good government.

Wis. Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green represents District 17 as a member of the Republican Party. Visit legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein or contact Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or 800-978-8008 for more information or to comment.