Memorial Day Message
State Budget in Brief
The Budget Writing Committee (JFC) is working diligently to craft a state budget, moving agency by agency to complete the task. Recently, the committee voted to create a $10 million appropriation at the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) that would provide authority to respond to natural disasters and public emergencies. These funds will help the Union Grove Veterans Home defray costs incurred in the event of another public health emergency or natural disaster. The committee supported an increase in grants for processing veteran disability claims. Increased funding for veteran suicide prevention awareness by giving $200,000 over the next two years. For our County Veteran Service Office, the committee voted to increase their budget by $76,200 per year – double what Governor Evers proposed.
Tourism is vital to Wisconsin’s economy. Many businesses in the tourism industry have been hit hard over the last year. The Legislature passed a bill earlier this year to direct $75 million to Wisconsin’s Tourism industry. Unfortunately, Governor Evers vetoed that bill, so the JFC voted to increase funding to market Wisconsin as a travel destination and also provided one-time funding to the Office of Outdoor Recreation to support Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry.
Homelessness is a tragic circumstance in too many of our communities. The committee voted to increase funding for the Housing Assistance Program (HAP) by $600,000 annually. HAP provides grants to local governments as well as both non-profits and for-profits to operate housing and supportive services for homeless individuals.
This week the JFC worked through the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) budget. Among other DPI budget items, supporting mental health initiatives and academic benchmark assessments are key areas of importance to me. The committee voted to provide $3.5 million annually to School-Based Mental Health Services Collaboration Grants. These grants provide students with necessary mental health services. Now more than ever we must address mental health issues as we work our way back from the public health emergency. I am pleased the JFC made this commitment.
The committee also voted to provide $2 million for benchmark assessments. Wisconsin students already lag in reading and math. Benchmark assessments are especially crucial to establish the academic standing of students as they move forward post public health emergency.
The work of the budget writing committee will continue for the coming weeks. You may be interested in personally reviewing the work they do by watching the committee on Wisconsin Eye at www.wiseye.org, and you may find their schedule and work at 2021 Joint Committee on Finance.
Waterford UpStart Program
This past school year, Wisconsin implemented the three-year Waterford UpStart pilot reading program in six school districts, including Racine Unified School District. I advocated for Racine Unified to be included in the pilot program. Waterford UpStart has worked diligently to provide greater equity and access to students across the state, as well as in the Racine area. This program is a great step forward, and I hope more families seek out the many resources available to them.
See the video below for a program update.
State Capitol is Open!
While official State Capitol tours are still suspended, anyone is welcome to come to the Capitol and take a self-guided tour. You are welcome to contact my office by calling 608-266-0731, and we will be happy to guide you through the notable sites in the Capitol building.
If you plan to make a visit, please enter through the ground-floor entrance on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Madison.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
The 2021-2022 Legislative Session is in full swing, it may be time to refresh our knowledge on the bill process in Wisconsin. Learn more by using this helpful booklet on how a bill becomes law.