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Marklein makes re-election bid official
MONROE - Wisconsin Senator Howard Marklein of District 17 has officially announced he intends to run for re-election on the November ballot, more than a week after he began circulating nomination papers.

"I've done a lot of good things for my district, but there's still a lot to do," Marklein said.

In his announcement Tuesday, Marklein heralded his legislative history regarding rural communities. Part of his work included a bill he co-sponsored to provide increased aid to schools, which was signed into law March 12 by Gov. Scott Walker. Assembly Bill 835 allows district revenue limits - the maximum amount a school can raise through state aid and property taxes - to be raised to $9,400 from $9,100 per student next year. In subsequent years, the limits will increase by $100 until the 2022-23 school year. It will also grant up to $400 per student in sparsity aid for districts with fewer than 745 students and less than 10 per square mile.

"It had a big impact on a lot of the schools," Marklein said. "It wasn't an easy task."

While Marklein champions his work regarding school funding, others have criticized the effectiveness of the aid. Lafayette County Supervisor Kriss Marion, a Democratic candidate for the District 17 Senate seat held by Marklein, said the senator has had opportunities to help rural schools but voted against measures providing more funding.

"Sen. Marklein is a talented auditor, but I think what we need right now is a vision," Marion said. "Schools are having to ask for referendums a lot. It used to be that we went to a referendum for something unique to that district ... now they're using them for operating expenses, roofs. Under that formula, our rural schools are going backwards."

Marion specifically pointed to Marklein's role on the Joint Finance Committee that cut $18 million in sparsity aid allocated to rural schools from the proposed 2017-19 state budget. Marklein, who expressed his objection to removing the aid in a press release, later co-authored a bill to increase sparsity aid by $9.7 million.

"There are people who, it doesn't matter what the amount is, it'll never be enough," Marklein said. "For small districts, that's a significant amount of money."

Marklein has been hosting listening sessions recently and said he has heard the concerns of constituents, like roads crumbling and access to faster internet.

"There is more money now for rural broadband because of my work on the finance committee," Marklein said, indicating that he has helped the state fund more than $14 million in improved broadband access for rural areas.

Marklein said he has high hopes for the campaign trail and is "looking forward to getting out and meeting a lot of people again."

A Spring Green native, Marklein was elected first in 2010 to represent the 51st Assembly District. He was succeeded by fellow Republican Rep. Todd Novak in 2014, after defeating incumbent state Sen. Dale Schultz for his current seat.

Marion said she expected the senator to run and is unworried about her chances for the seat.

"I think the people of the 17th and all our rural towns are ready for a change," Marion said. "I think we've been doing worse, not better. I love my community and I want to see all of our rural communities not just survive but thrive."

Marklein has faced a challenger in each general election and said he's not worried about another contested race.

"I grew up on a farm and I know how to work hard," Marklein said. "That's what I'm going to do."