The Wisconsin State Senate has one more attempt this year to pass a package of bills to help the homeless across Wisconsin.
The Senate has no excuse for inaction.
All of the proposals have plenty of bipartisan support to clear the Legislature, if only Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and a few stubborn colleagues would allow votes.
We know the bills would pass because they cleared the Republican-dominated Assembly by wide if not unanimous margins. All of the proposals have Republicans cosponsors.
Even some critics of the bills who have raised vague concerns have said they support most of ideas.
The public can help by calling their state senator on the legislative hotline at 800-362-9472 and demanding action this month before the Senate adjourns its regular business for the year.
When Assembly Bill 119, which steers $500,000 more per year to homeless shelters, was taken up last month, the Senate approved it unanimously.
Seven more bills remain, all of which have funding in the current state budget, which the Legislature approved last summer.
The remaining bills would help desperate people find and keep stable housing, help the homeless develop skills for employment, and assist landlords with repairs to low-cost housing. Fitzgerald and others have questioned the cost — $6.5 million over two years — representing a drop in the bucket in the state’s $81 billion budget.
Not that the cost alone should be a determining factor, but if this package of bills was not worthy of approval, why did the package receive bipartisan support in the Assembly?
Even if the entire package is approved, Wisconsin would continue to spend far less than what other cold-winter states such as Minnesota commit to the problem.
In some cases, the bills would save money by helping more people to improve their lives and become more self-sufficient.
If the state can’t afford these bills, then why are the names of Senate Republican budget committee leaders Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, on several of them?
Moreover, all of the bills are the result of hard work by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, with Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch championing the cause.
While we certainly would stop far short of calling it signature legislation, we also think that Gov. Walker would have wanted to see it through the approval phase of the state Legislature had he been reelected as governor. But in the spirit of bipartisanship, we think his successor. Gov. Tony Evers, will have no problem signing the package, either.
Like the coronavirus, homelessness will only get worse the more it is ignored.
Failure to take final State Senate action we believe is tantamount to sticking a head in the sand and ignoring homelessness as a real problem facing this state.
Let’s embrace solutions for homelessness: Provide them with a hand up into prosperity by encouraging full employment and affordable housing.
Giant journeys begin with a first step.
Portions of this editorial, made available through the Wisconsin Newspaper Association as part of a homelessness package, appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal.