Assembly Republicans, early in the budget debate, voted to table a Democratic amendment that would have overturned a move by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to restrict the WiscNet broadband service and return a $40 million federal grant related to the program.
WiscNet provides service to schools, libraries and hospitals across Wisconsin.
The move, Democratic lawmakers said, would be disastrous for state institutions that depend on the inexpensive service.
“This is one of those provisions that came out of the Joint Finance Committee late at night that left citizens of this state wondering what in the world we are up to as a Legislature,” Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, said. “This is a program that serves over 450 member organizations including schools, hospitals, libraries in your district. Every one of us has constituents who are members of WiscNet.”
But Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, a co-chairman of the JFC, said Republicans would later introduce their own amendment to preserve WiscNet for at least two years for all of its current customers.
The amendment, Vos added, also would provide legislative oversight to WiscNet that could restrict its expansion to new customers.
“What we are putting forward today is a compromise that says every single person who is on WiscNet today will see no difference in their service,” Vos said. “The amendment we’ll bring forward is a compromise trying to work together with all the different parties.”