Roys talks Dem budget priorities as she starts term on powerful Joint Finance Committee

MADISON, Wis. — The next budget cycle will see not only a record-setting nearly $6.6 billion budget surplus, but also new faces on the state’s powerful budget-writing committee to debate how to spend it.

Among the entrants is Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, who takes her seat on the Joint Finance Committee from retiring Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point.

Roys joins only four Democrats on the committee: two from the Senate and two from the Assembly. In a one-on-one sit down with News 3 Now, she said she sees her role in the minority party on the committee as holding the Republican majority accountable.

“It’s our job to make sure that the people know what has been done in their name and make sure that we’re holding people accountable for the decisions that they’re making,” Roys said.

Part of the Democratic push this next cycle will include addressing what Roys calls the brain drain — keeping the state’s workforce competitive and increasing funding for education.

Kelda Roys

Roys says she wants to see more of an investment in education and shared revenue when the Legislature meets next year to debate the state budget.

She also mentioned shared revenue, state aid provided to municipalities, as an area where she said Republicans have fallen short.

“This is something where you’ve got Republican town chairmen and Democratic county executives, saying that they cannot perform the essential services of local government,” Roys said.

“When Republicans talk about defunding the police, it is their own policies that have forced the hands of local government,” she added. “And it’s really unfair to be punishing local governments because they are not able to meet the services that the residents need and deserve.”

She said a lack of state aid affects even large cities like Madison, which she said have recently filled funding gaps with federal aid, which will not last forever.

Republicans have said, however, that the state’s budget surplus is indicative of Wisconsinites being overtaxed. They said they want to give some of that money back to taxpayers, instead of allowing the Democratic governor to write a blank check. News 3 Now is scheduling time with Republican leaders to discuss their budget priorities in-depth as well.

“There are a lot of things that, if you actually talk to voters, they broadly agree on,” Roys said. “Making sure that we can listen to what the people want and try to overcome the partisan divide that is so prevalent in the Capitol, I think that’s really important — that’s what our job is.”