State remapping deal promises more bi-partisanship

At least at the state level, there are encouraging early signs of bipartisanship that has been missing for the better part of two decades. It has something to do, me thinks, with the Supreme Court-ordered rearrangement of the Wisconsin legislative maps.

The un-doing of Wisconsin’s gerrymandered legislative districts is now in place. Gov. Tony Evers met half way with Republicans who then tweaked his rendition of what the maps should look like. The governor signed the re-jiggered boundaries into law last week.

The coming together on a solution can only be looked at as adult-level compromise. Yes, the legislature had a gun to its head held by the liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. But other versions of remapping being considered by the high court weakened Republican’s legislative prospects more than did the governor’s.

The GOP dominated legislature and the Democratic governor avoided a continuing conflict over the fairness of Wisconsin’s configuration of Assembly and Senate districts. Citizens and the legislature can put that issue behind them until the next census in 2030.

Will the grudging bi-partisanship over remapping carry over to other major issues? If legislative candidates, either incumbents or challengers, face elections that are competitive for the two parties, they will have a much harder time winning if they take extreme positions on the far right and the far left. Centrists will be more likely to carry the day in the ballot boxes in the newly competitive districts.

One example of actual compromise showed up in the budget fix that just passed for 2024. Both sides got something. Republicans won reductions in the extent of University of Wisconsin DEI initiatives (diversity, equity and inclusion). The Democrats won 4% wage increases for university employees.

In the budget fix, both sides agreed on the proposal from UW President Jay Rothman to invest $360 million in the engineering facility at UW-Madison. (The Madison centricity of the UW system is growing; UW-Milwaukee got little attention.)

The welcome, but embryonic bipartisanship in Madison stands in stark contrast to the bitter divisiveness and dysfunction engendered by former president Trump at the national level. The demands and atmosphere he creates is kind of a psychic sickness. He is always personal power first, country second. His nasty grip on congressional Republicans has reduced the national legislature to a stalemate where almost nothing positive gets done. Trump could care less. His only focus is scoring points for November.

It doesn’t have to be that way in Wisconsin. With competitive districts as an impetus, we can still work together to improve the state’s prosperity. Here are major challenges where the two parties can come together to improve the lives of our citizens:

  • Community Colleges – The remaining UW colleges are in free fall. The obvious solution is to merge them into the Wisconsin Technical College System to create a network of community colleges. They already exist in six technical college districts, such as Madison College. They offer both technical tracks for many occupations and baccalaureate tracks for professional careers. Importantly, their degrees are affordable.
  • Soaring Health Costs – Health costs for Wisconsin families and businesses are out of control, rising 8.5% this year. Health care competition to discipline hospital corporations and health insurers is nonexistent. A public service commission to regulate the collusive Medical Industrial Complex has to be created.
  • Worker Shortage Crisis – Wisconsin needs more legal immigration to fill a severe worker shortage that is a drag on our economy.
  • Great Lakes Hurting – The five Great Lakes face serious challenges, such as phosphorous overloads. Wisconsin, bordered by two of the five fresh water treasures, needs to take a leadership position on a multi-state effort to improve their health.
  • The E-State – Entrepreneurs reinvent and propel our economy. Adopt measures to make Wisconsin the most attractive state for launching a new venture. We already have an investment tax credit that leads the nation. We have legions of innovative citizens with invaluable ideas for starting new companies and creating high-pay jobs. Entrepreneurs mitigate the gaps between the top tiers in our society and those left behind.

The above list should all be non-political in nature. They lift all boats. Bipartisanship should rule.

A pending test of the new-found whiff of Wisconsin bipartisanship will be on how to use the remaining state surplus of as much as $7 billion on tax reductions. Cut a deal across the tax brackets and get something done!

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