Madison – Gov. Tony Evers announced in his annual State of the Union address Tuesday that he will seek hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health services for Wisconsinites, especially children who have spent the past three years navigating the coronavirus pandemic — through 2023. Proclamation of the “Year of Mental Health.”
In a primetime televised speech, Evers pledged with Republican lawmakers to provide more tax relief and increased funding for local government services, and billions in new funding for classrooms and programs aimed at recruiting more teachers. called upon.
“We also know that if we want our children to engage and achieve at their highest potential, we need to reduce and keep class sizes small. Schools need to retain experienced teachers and recruit new, talented Resources are needed to get people involved in our classes.” Evers said. “We also have to work on connecting our kids over the years. We all want to improve outcomes and ensure that our children are prepared for success. And I am confident that together we will do this.”
Evers, in his first statewide address since being re-elected in November, called for increasing funding for public schools, cutting taxes for middle-class filers, preserving the state’s election system, restoring abortion access, and providing more state money for local governments. Gave on the stage of doing.
Evers said he would seek $500 million in funding for mental health and behavioral services in 2023, including $270 million dedicated to expanding services in schools.
“The state of mental health in Wisconsin is a quiet, burdensome crisis that I believe will have devastating consequences for generations if we don’t treat it with the urgency we need,” Evers said.
After a fifth term as governor and four terms as the state’s superintendent of schools, Evers is also proposing to increase funding for public schools by a historic amount, this time $2 billion — calling on Republicans who control the Legislature and have largely rejected his previous education spending proposal to dedicate more than a quarter of the nearly $7 billion estimated budget surplus to schools in an effort to curb a growing number of approved property tax referendums.
“For years, communities have raised their own property taxes to keep their local schools afloat. And while some school districts have successfully passed referendums to help keep school lights on, many have tried And they failed. This system means huge differences in outcomes for our children — winners and losers, affluent and disadvantaged.” Doing what’s best for our kids has always been what’s best for our state. And, today, we can do more,” Evers said.
Republican lawmakers are proposing using the state’s projected budget surplus to cut massive income taxes and increase funding for private school voucher programs as their budget priorities.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said before Evers’ address that the $2 billion increase Evers is seeking for schools is “too high” for Republicans to support.
Evers said he would seek another $20 million to improve the reading skills of Wisconsin students. In the most recent round of statewide standardized testing, less than half of students in grades three through eight were deemed proficient in math and reading.
In 2022, Milwaukee public school students are projected to decline 38% in math and 24% in reading from 2019 scores. Overall, about 10% of Milwaukee students scored proficient or higher in math, and about 14% in language arts. Evers said he would propose “more than $20 million in teacher and student teacher recruitment, development, and retention, including $10 million for our local, domestic teachers, to strengthen our teacher pipeline and that To make sure it is sustainable for the future.”
Evers previously announced that state payments to local governments over the biennial would increase by 8% and include $10 million for local EMS, police and local municipalities for fire costs.
On Tuesday, he went further, saying he wanted to send up to a total of 20% of the state’s sales tax revenue back to local communities in payments known as shared revenue. Shared revenue is tax dollars that the state provides to cities, villages, towns and counties to help pay for local expenses. The amount has not been increased for years.
“This commitment will ensure that our communities will see increased shared revenue in the future after years of state investment that did not meet the needs of our communities,” Evers said. “And it means more than half a billion dollars a year in new resources to invest in key priorities like EMS, fire, and law enforcement services, transportation, local health and human services, and other challenges facing our communities,
Evers on Tuesday renewed his pledge to address water contamination, and implored the Legislature to take action to provide resources to communities that lack safe drinking water because of high levels of “perpetual chemicals.” Not there.
Nearly four years after declaring 2019 the “Year of Clean Water,” Evers is now pledging more than $100 million to address water pollution. The funding will allow the state to take a multipronged approach in addressing the PFAS issue, allowing the state to expand testing and surveillance, provide more resources to affected communities, and raise awareness of the health risks PFAS poses to communities .
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Those efforts will be in addition to actions that have gone forward, such as a Justice Department lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers, funding for the replacement of private wells for contamination, and funding for collecting and disposing of firefighting foam containing the chemicals.
In the previous budget, Evers proposed similar measures but Republicans controlling the Legislature removed the items in the final spending plan.
“Partisan politics cannot get in the way of this work while Wisconsinites worry about the water coming from their taps,” he said.
The second-term governor touted the state’s economic health, noting a record budget surplus and AAA bond credit rating.
Evers said he wants to create a $100 million workforce innovation grant program to respond to the state’s workforce challenges, and commit $50 million to address healthcare staffing shortages.
He praised his administration’s efforts to help local economies survive the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, which has kept many customers away for at least the first year of the health emergency and continues to create staff shortages for many industries. kept. Evers said the grant program has helped more than 8,500 businesses expand or move into vacant storefronts.
Evers also said he wants to double the number of homes and businesses in Wisconsin with new or improved broadband Internet access during his first term: 387,000.
Laura Schulte of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.