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Rhoades is glad it's over; looks ahead to January

After a budget stalemate and then a budget repair bill battle Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson, says she's happy this legislative session is done.

"Thank God we are done," said Rhoades. "This was one of the most bizarre sessions in the history of the state."

A co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, Rhoades says she is glad the recently passed budget-repair bill included a reduction in spending, but wasn't happy about some of Gov. Jim Doyle's vetoes.

"In our (Assembly) bill we protected SeniorCare, K-12 education, transportation funds and shared revenues to local governments," she said.

Doyle used his line-item veto to transfer funds out of the transportation budget into the state's general fund.

"We wanted to protect transportation funding because after the winter we've had our roads need help," Rhoades said.

An effort last week to override that veto fell a few votes shy.

Looking ahead to the next session in January, Rhoades predicts the economy will take center stage.

"I think the focus will be on the economy if things continue the way they are now," Rhoades said.

"I actually think right now people are more concerned about keeping their jobs and about bringing more jobs into the state," she added.

Rhoades also thinks that health care reform will be a hot topic, but she doesn't believe the Democratic state-funded universal health care program is what Wisconsinites want.

"People are looking for reform, not replacement," she said.

She noted that when the Democrats slipped their Healthy Wisconsin plan into the last budget it opened up a debate on what the program would cost.

"People didn't like it when they saw how high their taxes would rise under the Healthy Wisconsin plan," Rhoades said.

She said the state needs to look at reducing duplication and enhancing efficiencies in state government.

"We will be working on reorganizing the Wisconsin Department of Commerce," Rhoades said.

She said that one of the goals there will be to make the various economic development corporations more efficient.

Rhoades noted that last session a small group of bi-partisan lawmakers forwarded a proposal that would eliminate the various tax credit zones across the state like the Interstate-94 Technology Zone.

In its place the lawmakers proposed that each community compete for tax credits to attract businesses and the governor would choose which community received the credits.

Rhoades is not a proponent of the plan and thinks it pits one community against each other instead of fostering cooperation to get jobs within the different regions.

"We need to keep regional cooperative programs that allow us to continue to compete," she said.

"The I-94 technology zone has been very successful and we want to keep it," Rhoades added.

The lawmaker also hopes to eliminate funding for a busing program which she calls antiquated and wasteful.

The program called Chapter 220 Aid was enacted in 1976 to promote racial integration through busing in Milwaukee.

"If we eliminated this program we could take $58 million and distribute it to other districts in the state," Rhoades said.

She noted that the program is obsolete because of Milwaukee's school choice program, open enrollment, choice school and neighborhood schools program.

"Milwaukee is getting money for students they don't have," Rhoades said.

She also pointed out that on June 28, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling saying that race-based busing was illegal.

"I came close to eliminating it this session and maybe next session we can get rid of it," Rhoades concluded.

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