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Local legislators say roads, schools among top issues
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MONROE - Wisconsin's 2017-2018 legislative session began Tuesday, and state representatives are working to achieve their goals.

"We're already very busy," said Sen. Howard Marklein, representing District 17.

Marklein said on Thursday afternoon that his biggest priority in the coming months is working on the state's budget for the next two years. Of particular note will be the transportation budget, which Marklein said promises to be contentious.

Todd Novak, member of the State Assembly representing Assembly District 51, said his number one priority was to find a source of sustainable revenue for the district's transportation budget.

"We need to do more about that than just wait two years for the budget cycle," Novak said Wednesday. "But it'll be a big fight. The Assembly, the Senate and Governor Walker are all in different spots about that."

Novak and Marklein also agreed that addressing state funding for public schools is another priority.

"We have declining enrollment in most of our 13 school districts," Novak said.

Marklein said it would be a struggle to work with the budget to ensure school funding would benefit comparatively sparsely populated districts such as District 17.

On a related note, Marklein said he hoped to address the "phosphorus issue," referring to an environmental regulation that requires wastewater treatment plants to reduce phosphorus emissions to a level that places financial strain on smaller communities.

"With the new administration in Washington, we have the opportunity to revisit the issue and work with the (Department of Natural Resources) for more reasonable phosphorus standards," Marklein said.

Marklein added that he was working on legislation that would allocate more money to provide reliable broadband internet to rural areas in the district.

Meanwhile, Novak said he is working with the state attorney general to secure a drug grant for Lafayette County. The grant, Novak said, would provide the county more state funding to combat the perennial problem of drug abuse in rural areas.

Novak said that, in addition to his major priorities, he also hopes to continue to work on legislation to support senior citizens and people with Alzheimer's disease.

Marklein added that he also hopes to examine simple ways to make the state government more efficient.

"For example, we have people writing so many reports and some of them aren't even being read," Marklein said. "So if nobody's reading them, why are we even doing it?"