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Our View: Governor again ignores the needs of western Wisconsin

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opinion River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Despite publicized visits to this part of the state, most notably Hudson, lame-duck Gov. Jim Doyle continues to overlook our underrepresented area.

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We've already criticized Doyle's "lame" efforts to reconnect with his governor buddy from Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, and get the tax reciprocity agreement restored. As reported in last week's Star-Observer, that longstanding agreement is dead for now.

What that means is that in a year, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites and Minnesotans who commute across the border for their jobs will have to file tax returns in both states (and pay more to do so.)

Pawlenty backed out of the deal last summer, but Doyle didn't respond with a high-priority effort to make sure tax reciprocity was reinstated. This, despite the fact that Sheila Harsdorf, our local state senator, worked her butt off doing Doyle's work for him. She worked with Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin and with legislators from Minnesota.

While blame falls on Pawlenty as the deal breaker, Doyle didn't care or try hard enough on this issue that is important to so many Western Wisconsin residents. Doyle did, however, relish sharing the media spotlight with Pawlenty, sailing on a riverboat cruise with him and bragging about how much the two states would cooperate.

Good PR, governor, but bad work for your constituents.

And now Doyle has vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have given geographic representation to the 18-member University of Wisconsin Board of Regents.

That board is dominated by regents from the Milwaukee-Madison area. Not one member hails from university campuses in River Falls, Menomonie, Eau Claire, Green Bay and other far-flung sites across the state.

Again, Harsdorf was a co-sponsor of this bill whose author, Jeff Smith, is an Eau Claire Democrat. About the bill's defeat, Harsdorf was quoted as saying, "That leaves a tremendous void of people who can bring to the board issues affecting other parts of the state."

Doyle, who makes regent appointments, didn't want restrictions. He said regional representation would pit campus against campus and limit his pool of topnotch candidates.

Clearly, Doyle finds that pool bigger and better in the southeastern part of the state, the usual myopic focus of Wisconsin governors. That's one reason UW-River Falls has been waiting for two decades to get the go-ahead for a modern Health and Human Performances facility to replace the overcrowded, outdated, crumbling one at Karges Center.

Doyle claims a diverse University Board of Regents would be divisive. Here, we see it as getting our voice heard. That's hard when your perspective is Milwaukee- or Madison-focused. By the time that focus extends to Eau Claire, Menominee and River Falls, it's pretty weak.

The same weak focus was evident in the failed tax reciprocity deal. It's been said before, but in Western Wisconsin, we're simply an afterthought in state politics.

By the way, other co-sponsors of the bill to bring geographic balance to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents were area Republicans Kitty Rhoades and John Murtha. Area Democratic co-sponsores included Kathleen Vinehout, Alma, and Chris Danuou, Trempealeau.

Good for them all and good for trying.

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