On June 29th, the Wisconsin Assembly passed the GOP-written budget. The next day, the Wisconsin Senate did the same. We both voted to support the budget, not because it was a great budget, but in the end because it makes some needed investment in education, broadband expansion, and healthcare, and because this budget provides at least some light at the end of the tunnel.
We heard from you, the people living in our communities across the north land, about the proposals in the budget that are important to you. Increased money for schools, for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship fund, for healthcare providers. We heard about the services important for independence and health for our elderly neighbors, like access to telehealth services and increased reimbursement rates for home-care and support staff. We’ve heard from small business owners about the struggles of inadequate internet access and difficulties in hiring employees, and the lack of child care options.
We heard from teachers, students and school administrators about the needs of schools across northern Wisconsin. Broadband access to get homework done and work remotely, more money for bussing students to and from school, funding for specialists to address and provide access to mental health care for students, and increased aide for each student in a school district are all essential.
Your concerns are our concerns and we made the choices to support a budget that addressed them, if not to the extent we both believe is necessary. Our vote is a reflection of the commitment we have to serve the people of Northern Wisconsin.
The budget we voted for only included a tenth of the school funding proposed by Governor Tony Evers. It put broadband expansion funding on the state’s credit card, to be paid off over the next 20 years. Nearly 90,000 Wisconsinites will not get health insurance in this budget, and the whole state will miss out on $1.6 billion from the federal government by not accepting the Medicaid expansion. It was a budget that doesn’t go far enough for our communities, for schools and hospitals, for infrastructure improvements and environmental protections.
Governor Evers was waiting at the other end, with corrective pen in hand. Although he couldn’t use his veto pen to fix all the problems of the budget, he was able to find an additional $100 million for schools and signed a budget that provides more than $2 billion in individual tax relief for millions of Wisconsinites. The budget makes a long overdue increase in state payments to towns with county forest lands by more than doubling the current rate, to $.63 per acre. This will provide towns financial assistance to deliver essential services to residents in every county in the 25th Senate District and the 74th Assembly District.
This is the silver lining of the budget process, that schools will get some of the funding they need, that families and small business owners will see a greater return come tax season, that municipalities will be able to provide greater services to the people who live there, and that broadband access will extend down more rural routes. We will continue to work together, with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and with the Governor to ensure all the people across the state can see the light at the end of the tunnel.