By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley thinks her constituents who don’t vote for local tax increases “are not smart.”
The Ashland Democrat said as much at a Wisconsin Counties Association Roundtable this week.
Bewley shared a story about communities in her northern Wisconsin district that couldn’t afford to operate an ambulance service.
“It’s a mandated service and they can’t do it. They’re heart sick and begging for help,” she said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) asked, “Have they gone to referendum already and asked voters to increase their own revenues?”
“They haven’t had time but they are thinking about it,” Bewley answered.
“So they have the option now?” Vos followed up.
Bewley agreed they do but that the “voters will turn it down, then they’re going to be in the same position they’re in right now.”
“So, if the voters turned it down, doesn’t it mean they don’t support what you’re advocating for?” Vos asked.
“No, it means they’re not smart,” Bewley sharply answered.
Then the senator summed up the left’s elitist attitude on governance, saying the state should step in when local residents err in their judgment. In short, the state helps those who don’t have the good sense to help themselves.
“Sometimes we have to do things to allow them the ability, we, as a state, have to do things that are part of the state’s responsibilities that should not always be linked to one group… If they can’t provide it, don’t we have some collective responsibility to help those communities that depend on volunteer emergency services?” Bewley stammered.
Vos asked Bewley if she might want to rethink her accusation.
“I disagree with people a lot but I don’t think people who disagree with me are dumb,” the speaker said. “Basically, you just said your constituents are dumb because they don’t agree with you.”
Vos and Bewley joined Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) at the roundtable discussion.