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Editorial cartoon (2/24/2016)

State Sen. Duey Stroebel, who represents the mostly suburban Senate district north of Milwaukee where family income is about $11,000 more than the state average, says he's tired of constantly battling to lower the state's property taxes.

Poor, tired Duey, who owns about two dozen parcels of commercial and rental properties in and around Saukville, has his shorts in a bundle over all the school district referendums being held around the state as local folk try to backfill all the cuts that Stroebel's party has made to public schools the past six years or so. He probably suffered a stroke when he heard that Verona's record-breaking referendum was backed by nearly three-quarters of city voters last week.

Well, frankly, a lot of folks are getting tired of Stroebel, a representative of a silk-stocking and gerrymandered district, telling them what they ought to do about funding their own schools.

Here's this dyed-in-the-wool Republican, who constantly harps about awful big government and how it's an ogre that hamstrings the independence of American citizens, telling local property taxpayers the state government knows what's best for them.

Our friend Duey obviously believes that those local folks need to be saved from themselves.

So he and a few of his legislative buddies from wealthy legislative districts have introduced legislation to make it more difficult for local districts to hold referendums, and should they still be successful, there'd be consequences — like reducing the district's share of state education aid.

Stroebel insists that all those referendums, many of which have passed because local voters are convinced their schools need more support, are undoing the Scott Walker-led attempts to lower property taxes.

So now that Walker has proposed restoring some of the billion dollars in cuts he's made to Wisconsin public education, Stroebel and his cohort believe they need to act.

"If the governor is proposing more than $600 million in increased school aid, we must crack down on referenda as a necessary component of our education policy," he told the press. "I am tired of being a high-tax state and I'm especially tired of pushing lower taxes and limited spending only to have the efforts undone in school referenda."

All of which completely ignores what Walker and legislators like Stroebel have done to rural school districts in recent years where many of the emergency referendums are occurring.

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"There is not a single author from rural Wisconsin, where these bills will have the most serious impact," Kim Kauki of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance pointed out. "This is a case of how many of our legislators in the Fox Valley and southeastern Wisconsin are disconnected with the needs of the rest of the state."

Besides, when Walker and the Legislature passed the initial cutbacks in 2011, local districts were told they could use referendums to spend more if local taxpayers thought it necessary. 

But now the truth comes out. These anti-government Republicans who control Wisconsin really don't trust the people to make good decisions. Only they know what's good for the rest of us.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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