Joint Finance Committee hearing underway in Ellsworth


ELLSWORTH — Hundreds of area residents, activists and community leaders packed the stands Wednesday at Ellsworth High School’s gym, where the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee held a public hearing.

Education funding was a central theme early at the event, which lawmakers said has been voiced at other hearings held around the state.

“We need to build on our strengths in the state,” Sen. Alberta Darling, who co-chairs the joint panel, said before the hearing kicked off.

Among those who spoke in support of Gov. Scott Walker’s education funding increase was Baldwin-Woodville School District Principal Eric Russell.

The proposal, he said, “seems like a great place to start working together.”

Lawmakers in attendance included Joint Finance Committee member Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, a River Falls Republican, Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, and Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva.

“This is a really special opportunity for our residents” to attend, Harsdorf said, “and not have to drive four hours.”

Fellow River Falls lawmaker Shannon Zimmerman, a GOP Assembly member, said Wednesday’s hearing gave western Wisconsin residents a unique opportunity.

“We’re going to hear the voice of our constituents,” he said.

Petryk opened the event by leading the crowd in song, including a rendition of “God Bless America.”