Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cap Times: Vote yes on MATC, invest in Wisconsin's future

Yesterday the Cap Times ran an editorial supporting Madison Area Technical College's (MATC) $131 million building referendum. So far Senator Darling has not issued a press release about the need for elected boards and no one has attacked MATC's employee compensation.

The editorial is linked here and appears below:

Cap Times editorial Thursday, October 21, 2010 5:00 am

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and the South Central Federation of Labor are not always on the same page.

But turbulent economic times and the question of how to confront them in the most effective way have focused business and labor, rural and urban communities, Republicans and Democrats, even the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times on the same principle: The Madison Area Technical College is a vital force in our local economy that must be strengthened if we are going to meet the challenges of the future.

There’s broad support for a “yes” vote on the Nov. 2 MATC referendum.

If the referendum is approved, the college, which maintains campuses and facilities throughout the region, would be able to borrow $133.8 million for new construction.

The bonds would take 20 years to pay off, and property taxpayers would feel a pinch. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay $27.52 a year for the first 10 years; the amount would drop over the following decade.

We can understand that some residents of Madison and communities across the 12-county region served by the school would be ill at ease with the prospect of a tax hike. MATC officials worried about whether this was the right time to make the request. But they made the right decision in going to referendum.

The current economic troubles resulted from many factors but one of the most serious of these was a failure to invest in the infrastructure of education, technological development and job training during the 1990s and the first years of the 21st century. Other countries made sounder and stronger investments, and they are paying off today. The United States needs to catch up. But the process of catching up will not be an even one. Some regions will be ahead of others. South-central Wisconsin, a traditional education and innovation powerhouse, needs to be in the forefront.

We do not always agree with MATC officials when it comes to their approaches. But they have, to our view, plotted this initiative with an eye toward achieving that goal while making rapid, practical and positive improvements in the circumstances of the communities that are served by the college.

Much of the money, $43 million, would go to build a health education center at the Truax campus on Madison’s east side. The center would include classrooms and a health clinic designed to serve the public. The nurses, technicians and health aides trained at the center would serve the entire region, addressing critical health care personnel shortages.

Other projects in communities across the region are similarly designed to ensure that MATC does not merely construct new facilities -- although the job creation potential in this aspect of the plan ought not be underestimated -- but also makes a tangible and immediate impact on the social and economic condition of south-central Wisconsin.

In other words, voting “yes” on the Nov, 2 MATC referendum is the smartest investment residents of this region can make in their future.

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