Contact: Rep. Crowley, 608.266.5580

MADISON, WI – Members of the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Caucus sent the following letter to Representative Mike Kuglitsch, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities, calling for a committee vote without amendments on Assembly Bill 78 (AB 78).

Dear Representative Kuglitcsh:

The following members of the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Caucus are formally requesting a committee vote without amendments on Assembly Bill 78 (AB 78), relating to the allocation of funds to help offset the costs for homeowners of replacing pipes contaminated with lead.  This bill has wide bipartisan support and will dramatically improve the lives of thousands of children in Wisconsin by preventing severe illnesses that have lifelong implications.

AB 78 would enable water utilities to provide financial assistance to customers to replace service pipes containing lead.  Under this bill, the Public Service Commissioner would account for this financial assistance when determining water rates.  The average cost of service lateral replacement is $3,600 but varies based on other factors.  For many residents in Milwaukee, the cost of replacing their lead pipes is a substantial financial burden. With approximately 70,000 lead pipes in Milwaukee, we are focused on reducing the average replacement cost and finding external financial sources to resolve this public health challenge.

As you know, the effects of lead poisoning are most dangerous in young children and can cause lifelong problems.  Increased lead exposure has been linked to ADHD, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and criminal activity.  Additionally, lead poisoning can pass from a pregnant mother to her unborn child and irreparably damage the brain, kidney, and nervous system development, among other things. Lead exposure is a serious health risk for our most vulnerable population: children.

In Milwaukee, the presence of lead in pipes has created a significant public health crisis that continually affects city residents.  Wisconsin represents only 1.8% of the total U.S. population, but accounts for 8% of the children with blood lead levels five times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold for public health action. This statistic is even more extreme in Milwaukee.  In 2014, Milwaukee accounted for 57% (2,244 children) of the 3,922 children who tested positive for high lead levels in the entire state. As these numbers show, Wisconsin, and especially Milwaukee, has an extensive public health crisis that could easily be prevented.

As Milwaukee legislators, we are anxious to see AB 78 gain committee passage without amendments that alter any municipality’s ability to effectively finance their projects. Unfortunately, that is what is being put forward by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce. Passing a clean version of AB 78 in Committee and moving the legislation to the Assembly Floor Calendar are goals we all share.

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