MADISON, Wis. -- Today, I stepped onto the Assembly floor to vote on the state’s budget for the next two years. As always, this budget is about the priorities of the people of Wisconsin: priorities I’ve heard about through listening sessions and budget surveys, through emails and phone calls, and through many meetings with individuals and groups of all kinds that will be impacted by this budget over the next two years.
When I was re-elected, I promised to fight for our district and our needs. On all of the most important issues we face, this budget represents real, meaningful progress – whether it’s education funding, roads, or tools to combat the methamphetamine epidemic, this budget is a win. I believe that anyone who cares about our people’s priorities will vote “yes” on this budget.
Few issues are more important that education funding, and few budgets have been better for our schools than this one. In fact, it mirrors a budget proposal that Tony Evers called “kid-friendly” and “an important step forward” when he was Superintendent of Public Instruction. Over two years, this budget gives every school $12,000 for every classroom of 20 students. It also drastically raises special education funding, putting $96 million more into that bucket alone. And it increases the low revenue ceiling to $10,000 by the second year, greatly expanding options for our low-spending school districts that have been living with a tightened belt for years now.
Spending on our roads has also been a priority for the district; two years ago, I sat down with every roads administrator in the district and said that we cannot afford to keep kicking the can on funding. This budget has the lowest level of bonding for roads since 2001 – that means we’re finally taking meaningful steps to get our transportation budget in order.
But we’re also making sure that we are taking care of all of our roads, not just the Milwaukee megaprojects. This budget triples funding to the Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP) program, which goes directly to counties, towns, villages, and cities. The budget makes $90 million available for this program, the highest amount since 1998. I’m already working with stakeholders in our district to make sure our grant applications are ready, because I want as much state money as possible to get to the 75th Assembly District.
It’s no secret that the methamphetamine epidemic has had a huge impact on our district. One of my biggest jobs in Madison has been educating my colleagues who live in districts that have not been as hard-hit as ours about the impact meth is having here. As our courts continue to struggle with the flood of meth cases, this budget invests in new assistant District Attorney positions for our district: 1 for Barron County, 1 for Polk County, 1 for Dunn County, and 0.75 for Washburn County.
But we’re going beyond the justice system to make sure that the children who are affected by this crisis have the help they need, too. After a meeting with all of our caseworkers in Barron County, my vote today fully funds the Counties Association request for support to the Children and Family Aids. Right now, Milwaukee caseworkers are limited to 10 cases at a time – meanwhile, our caseworkers sometimes need to manage more than 30 cases at a time. Our kids are just as important as kids in other parts of the state, and this money will ensure that we can support the most innocent victims of methamphetamines.
Even with a historically strong economy and more than $1 billion in projected new revenue, Governor Evers’ insatiable appetite for big government gobbled up his entire budget. He spent so much, he needed to raise taxes by another billion, even though he promised not to. The budget I am voting for today spends less, taxes less, borrows less, and still makes record investments in people, not programs.