Congressman Kind hears myriad of local concerns

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The highlight of Ava Roth’s day April 4 was getting to experience a listening session with Congressman Ron Kind at the Crawford County Administration Building. After an appointment in town, she attended the session with her dad, A.V. Roth, of rural Wauzeka. She acted very quietly and respectfully throughout the event, listening to all of the questions and answers, particularly her dad’s inquiry about international trade. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

International trade, Medicaid services, FEMA funding, health care supplement regulations, the gun debate and President Trump’s military parade intentions were the topics broached at a listening session hosted by Congressman Ron Kind last Wednesday, April 4, at the Crawford County Administration Building. About a dozen people were in attendance. 

Wauzeka pork producer A.V. Roth, who attended with his young daughter, thanked Kind for his leadership on international trade and asked the Congressman his thoughts.

Kind said products such as pork, soybeans and cranberries are on the list of threatened U.S. exports that could directly affect Wisconsin. Just as the U.S. has put up new barriers to cross-border commerce, its largest trading partner, China, has redoubled its efforts to seal free-trade agreements. Kind said he feels China is cheating, stealing our intellectual property and hurting the U.S. and global trade in general. He said he appreciated South Korea’s “give” on car quotas coming into the country. 

“I’m always in favor of reviewing trade agreements,” he stated. “As our farmers are already struggling, now is not the time to lose markets of our agricultural products, especially down in Mexico. Otherwise, it’ll be China establishing the rules of trade. I will continue to engage the administration to see if there’s a more constructive approach.”

Pam Ritchie, director of the Opportunity Center in Prairie du Chien, wondered if there was any more room in the state’s budget for the Center for Medicaid Services. 

“We’ve been pushed into a service model far more expensive to operate and given fewer dollars to do that with,” she said. “With the cuts to the Medicaid system, we’ve been pushed toward more community-based services, versus the facility-based services that are the basis of our 40-plus year history. We’re expected to have a 1 to 4 ratio of staff to clients in the community, where we once had a 1 to 15 ration in the facility. And we’re getting 15 cents more per hour to do that. It sure seems like a race to the bottom for people with disabilities.”

Kind agreed with Ritchie about the stressors of the system. He said Wisconsin is 50th out of 50 states in Medicaid reimbursement for nursing homes, for instance.

“I heard this morning that they may take another whack in a couple weeks that would drastically cut these discretionary programs,” Kind noted. 

He assured Ritchie he would carry her frustrations into state budget discussion in hopes of warding off continued cuts to Medicaid services.

Cheryl Mader, of Prairie du Chien, chimed in with her opinion about cuts across the board: “The cows are gonna come home. Everything’s cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. It’s the only thing [our state] can do. We will see the impact.”

Kind added, “We’re already seeing it with the people in our prisons, the opioid problem, the need for rural education and health care needs.”

Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock asked Kind about FEMA funding for Crawford County communities which suffered significant losses in infrastructure. He said especially Clayton and Freeman townships took a large hit in recent years’ storms. 

“[FEMA sends] people in and then they pull them out and send somebody else in. Some of the projects, they’ve just walked away from and townships have had to start all over. For the county to try to recoup the money, we have to make an appeal,” Pelock said. “Instead the town has spent $97,000 making repairs themselves.”

“We’ll put some pressure on FEMA,” Kind said. He reminded Pelock that companies don’t want to come to rural Midwestern towns because of the return on investment. It’s not a heavy traffic corridor,” he commented. “But we do need a sustainable stream of funds.”

He also understood Pelock’s request that when FEMA sends reps into the area for reimbursement projects, they need to remain until the project funding is complete. 

Prior to the town hall, Kind announced proudly that he’s given $102,109.57 from his annual office budget to the U.S. Treasury to help pay down the national debt. Rep. Kind has found savings in his congressional budget every year since taking office and has returned nearly $2 million to taxpayers, to date.

“It’s all about creating a cultural fiscal responsibility,” he shared. “I treat my office budget the same way thousands of Wisconsinites approach their family budgets: with care. I work to ensure my office is using our hard-earned tax dollars efficiently to maximize savings.”

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