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Joint Finance Committee hearing underway in Ellsworth

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Community members packed the gym at Ellsworth High School Wednesday, where the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee held a public hearing. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

ELLSWORTH — Hundreds of area residents, activists and community leaders packed the stands Wednesday at Ellsworth High School’s gym, where the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee held a public hearing.

Education funding was a central theme early at the event, which lawmakers said has been voiced at other hearings held around the state.

“We need to build on our strengths in the state,” Sen. Alberta Darling, who co-chairs the joint panel, said before the hearing kicked off.

Among those who spoke in support of Gov. Scott Walker’s education funding increase was Baldwin-Woodville School District Principal Eric Russell.

The proposal, he said, “seems like a great place to start working together.”

Lawmakers in attendance included Joint Finance Committee member Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, a River Falls Republican, Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, and Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva.

“This is a really special opportunity for our residents” to attend, Harsdorf said, “and not have to drive four hours.”

Fellow River Falls lawmaker Shannon Zimmerman, a GOP Assembly member, said Wednesday’s hearing gave western Wisconsin residents a unique opportunity.

“We’re going to hear the voice of our constituents,” he said.

Petryk opened the event by leading the crowd in song, including a rendition of “God Bless America.”

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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