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Our View: Harsdorf, Knudson get crack at altering Walker's budget

Harsh criticism has followed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed new budget, particularly as it pertains to spending cuts for the University of Wisconsin System and K-12 public education.

Wisconsinites can’t be blamed for asking why, in the midst of a booming national economy, our state is looking at a budget that must be balanced by scrimping on educational spending and borrowing heavily for its transportation (road) needs.

Former State Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) was among those who questioned Walker’s past tax cuts as going too deep but did nothing about it. Ellis was quoted as saying, “A number of us were concerned. … But we (Republican senators) voted for it.”

The curtain goes up now for the second act. Two area state lawmakers have major roles in deciding how Walker’s budget will be reshaped before voted on by the full Legislature.

One of them, State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), was quoted in a New Richmond News article last week saying: “This is the governor’s budget, and it’s now in our hands.” Harsdorf promised a “lot of discussion” on both school funding and the $300 million proposed cut to the UW System.

She should be able to at least deliver on that promise. Harsdorf and State Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) sit on the Joint Finance Committee that gets first crack at reviewing and likely redoing the budget before a legislative vote. Joint Finance will also get nonpartisan budget reports from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and hold public hearings on the budget across Wisconsin.

Knudson got an earful of budgetary concerns at his recent Listening Session held in River Falls. The turnout there was big and the questions were pointed but polite.

That’s the kind of feedback Harsdorf and Knudson need to keep receiving through spring as they go about their work on the Joint Finance Committee. We urge our readers, regardless of political persuasion or view, to contact them about the budget and about priorities for how tax dollars should and should not be spent.

It’s a crucial time for making a difference, or at least trying.