Last week, Governor Evers signed Wisconsin’s two-year budget into law. Before giving his final approval, the Governor altered the spending plan 78 times using his partial veto powers. I applaud him for signing the budget instead of vetoing it in its entirety, as some suggested he do. Indeed, not a single Democratic member of the Assembly or Senate voted for the budget. While I’m happy for the Governor’s support, I do have issues with some of his vetoes.
A major concern is the Governor’s decision to remove funding for the Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP), a program that provides monies to counties and municipalities to repair deteriorating roads. Here in Madison, I was instrumental in securing $90 million in new funding to support this program and help eliminate the backlog of local road projects in northwest Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, with a stroke of his pen, the Governor slashed this program by $15 million and vetoed requirements that it be used to help municipalities. Money that was meant to help rural communities like ours now instead sits in a slush fund at the Department of Transportation waiting to be spent by bureaucrats – probably in places like Madison and Milwaukee.
As I’ve said before, the condition of our roads in northwest Wisconsin is a topic that Republicans and Democrats both agree needs to be addressed, and I’m disappointed that Governor Evers chose to pillage a program that would’ve helped our part of the state.
The Governor also eliminated a planned regional mental health crisis center in Eau Claire. As I’ve met with local law enforcement officials, it has become clear northwest Wisconsin needs more mental health facilities. In fact, it is one of their highest priorities.
The planned center in Eau Claire would have reduced the strain on resources that many local departments face. Increasing access to mental healthcare resources is one of my top priorities, and I’m disappointed by the Governor’s choice to act against the legislature’s efforts to increase such access.
Despite these shortsighted vetoes, I’m pleased with what this budget will do for Wisconsin. Over the course of the next two years, all school districts will see an increase in funding, including increased funding for special education and mental health services. Long-term care providers will receive increased funding and a higher reimbursement for Medicaid patients. $500 million of surplus revenues will be returned to the taxpayers in the form of a middle class tax cut. All of this has been accomplished while doubling the state’s rainy day fund and with no additional state level taxes.
I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with this budget, and I look forward to continuing to work on the issues that face northwest Wisconsin in the coming months.