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Sen. Melissa Agard: BEST agenda for Wisconsin's future

Sen. Melissa Agard: BEST agenda for Wisconsin's future

State Capitol

At every stage in life, Wisconsinites deserve economic security and to know that their government works for them. Investing in Wisconsin’s children, workers and retirees is the right thing to do and a necessary step towards restoring and retaining our state’s economic health, addressing income inequality, as well as strengthening our economy.

I am proud to lead a coalition of my Democratic colleagues in crafting a policy agenda that works to ensure all Wisconsinites can secure the solid economic foundation they deserve. This broad agenda is aimed at addressing the challenges of everyday life. Whether in childhood where kids deserve to be kids, or reaching for the American Dream of owning a home or starting a family — these should all be attainable. Having the ability to pursue your dreams and retire with dignity and without fear, these are Wisconsin values.

Unfortunately, too many of our friends and neighbors across Wisconsin are struggling just to get by, living life with the knowledge that they will not be able to get ahead no matter how hard they work.

For far too long the system has been rigged to benefit the richest individuals and the biggest corporations. Too many folks are falling through the cracks despite following all of the rules. No one should see this as acceptable, nor should we see it as inevitable in the richest country in the world.

We need action. It is past time to move legislation forward that puts the economic needs of ordinary Wisconsinites first, from birth through retirement. That is why I am proud to introduce the Building Economic Security Together (BEST) agenda with my colleagues.

The policies in this package are vital in helping all Wisconsinites secure the future they deserve.

Included are:

  • Baby bonds — For babies born to eligible families in Wisconsin, the state would invest $3,000. Access to these funds would be granted at 18 to be used to buy a home, pursue higher education, start a business, contribute toward retirement or pay for childcare. Baby bonds would help to level the playing field at a time where income inequality is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in communities of color who have been harmed by historic economic injustices.
  • $15 minimum wage — Requires the state to increase wages over two years and adjust to inflation after that, restore local control to set their own minimum wage, and end tipped wage. Here in Wisconsin we believe that an honest day's work deserves an honest day's pay. We need fair wages that will provide meaningful support for ordinary Wisconsinites.
  • Housing assistance — Creates a pilot program that would allow counties to apply for grant funding to assist Wisconsinites with down payments on homes. Providing counties the opportunity to aid people with down payments on homes would help to close the home ownership gap and assist Wisconsinites access stable, safe housing.
  • Retirement marketplace — Creates a state-run marketplace to access information and invest in vetted retirement plans. Financial stability is a crucial element of retirement planning. Wisconsin must play a role in providing avenues to build this vital foundation for folks no matter where they work.
  • Pension relief — Repeals the state tax on pensions of public safety and other frontline workers. Wisconsinites should be able to retire with the dignity they deserve after a career dedicated to our communities.
  • Prescription drug pricing transparency — Requires pharmaceutical companies to report to the state when a drug price will be increasing by more than 25%. Prescription drug price transparency is a crucial element in managing drug costs and ensuring all Wisconsinites have access to their vital medications without fear of financial harm.

The down payment we make in Wisconsinites now will provide long-lasting economic growth and success. To be clear, this is only the start. We, as elected officials, must always focus our efforts at making the lives of those we serve better and more secure.

In Wisconsin, we look out for one another. The BEST agenda is the first step.

Melissa Agard, D-Madison, represents the 16th Senate District.

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