OAK CREEK -- People from all over the state packed the Oak Creek Community Center on Wednesday, April 10, to tell lawmakers what they want in the next budget. They waited for hours -- some without a chair -- for their turn to share their message with Wisconsin lawmakers. More than 300 signed up to speak.
As part of the budget process, the Joint Committee on Finance scheduled similar meetings across the state to take public comments on Gov. Tony Evers' two-year budget proposal.
Many of the speakers came on behalf of their industry. Educators, health care workers, and farmers took the microphone to ask for budget dollars and policy reform.
Others testified on matters closer to the heart.
"Before you is an empty wheelchair of my grandfather. He passed away on Sunday," said Katie Carter.
Carter asked lawmakers to fund home caregivers at a higher rate.
"I have two sons also in wheelchairs. It is very difficult to find appropriate, good people who want to find a good job," said Carter.
Students begged for more tobacco education to prevent their classmates for getting hooked. One man at the meeting spent time behind bars in Milwaukee. He said the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility is so overcrowded, he slept on the floor.
"I had to choose between my head being by the toilet or my feet. Either way I got splashed," the man said.
As they decide how to prioritize and distribute budget dollars, Republicans and Democrats are divided on expanding Medicaid as well as transportation and education funding.
"Could you please, please really look at this?" Carter asked the lawmakers.
Carter said she respects the battle in Madison, but like so many, wants lawmakers to acknowledge the one she faces at home.
"This is not a partisan issue," Carter said. "This is an every person issue."
The hearing wrapped up after seven hours. The Joint Committee on Finance will hold two more before its members sit down and try to assign dollars to all the topics they've heard about.