On February 16, Governor Evers announced his proposed 2021-23 Wisconsin State Budget. Any budget, whether for your family, an organization, or the state, reflects its values and priorities. As people of faith, we hope the state budget will reflect our values, prioritizing people over corporations, the more vulnerable over the wealthy, building toward the future rather than preserving the status quo.
Of course, this proposal is just the first step on a long road to finalizing the budget. The Joint Finance Committee will look at the proposal, immediately take out any items deemed to be policy and non-fiscal and decide whether to work from this proposal or write their own. In previous years, hearings were held around the state to give the public an opportunity for input. What that will look like this year due to the pandemic remains to be seen. From there, the legislature will work on the final proposal to be voted upon. The Governor then has the option of signing, vetoing, or signing after vetoing portions of the bill.
The Wisconsin Interfaith Voter Engagement Campaign and the ACLU-WI held a training webinar on Feb. 23 led by Molly Collins, Advocacy Director at the ACLU-Wisconsin. The budget process was explained, and participants were trained in how to be good advocates for a just and moral budget.
You can watch the recording of the training here.
The Governor, the Joint Finance Committee, and individual legislators are holding hearings and listening sessions, both virtual and in-person, to give you opportunities to share your values and your vision for what you want to see in the state's budget over the next two years. Go here to find out more about these opportunities to share your voice.
Some key items in the proposal that align with our values and priorities:
- Directs the Department of Transportation to implement automatic voter registration,
- Modifies voter ID requirements, particularly requiring the UW system to issue student IDs that comply with voter ID laws,
- Extends absentee voting timeframe,
- Requires the legislature to go by the Fair Maps Commission recommendations when redrawing district boundaries, abide by open meetings rules, and retain records of their deliberations on redistricting for ten years,
- Funding to improve broadband access,
- Funds two new DMV offices in Dane and Brown Counties, which will help with access to obtain appropriate ID for voting,
- Creates new offices and grant opportunities to promote equity and inclusion in all aspects of government and in our communities,
- Provides funding to increase access to affordable childcare, particularly in areas that are currently childcare deserts, and stipends for childcare workers based on educational attainment and longevity in the field,
- Raises the age for juvenile offenders to be treated as adults from 17 to 18,
- Repeals aspects of Act 10 to restore some collective bargaining rights and strengthen unions,
- Accepts Medicaid Expansion to cover adults making up to 138% of poverty, establishes a state-based health insurance marketplace in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act, establishes a program to provide premium assistance for those making between 138 – 250% of the federal poverty line, repeals BadgerCare work requirements,
- Repeals work requirements and drug screening for FoodShare recipients,
- Allows in-state tuition for immigrants who meet certain requirements,
- Allows for drivers licenses/state ID for undocumented immigrants,
- Raises the minimum wage to $10.15/hr by 2024 and sets up a commission to study the feasibility of raising to $15/hr.