hist127703Senator LeMahieu, with unanimous consent, asked that Senate Resolution 4 be withdrawn from the committee on Senate Organization and taken up at this time.
Senate Resolution 4
Relating to: observing February 28, 2021, as Rare Disease Day.
hist127704The question was: Adoption of Senate Resolution 4?
Senate Joint Resolution 5
Relating to: recognizing February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
hist127705The question was: Adoption of Senate Joint Resolution 5?
In the Chair
President Pro Tempore Testin in the chair.
Assembly Joint Resolution 2
Relating to: honoring the life and commemorating the career and accomplishments of Hank Aaron.
hist127706The question was: Concurrence of Assembly Joint Resolution 2?
hist127708Senator LeMahieu, with unanimous consent, asked that Assembly Joint Resolution 6 be withdrawn from the committee on Senate Organization and taken up at this time.
Assembly Joint Resolution 6
Relating to: proclaiming February 2021 to be American Heart Month in Wisconsin.
hist127707The question was: Concurrence of Assembly Joint Resolution 6?
Assembly Joint Resolution 3
Relating to: declaring January 24 to 30, 2021, School Choice Week and recognizing the importance of giving parents the choice in the educational path for their children.
hist127709The question was: Concurrence of Assembly Joint Resolution 3?
Senator Roys, with unanimous consent, asked to be recorded as voting “No” on the question of concurrence in Assembly Joint Resolution 3.
Senator LeMahieu, with unanimous consent, asked that all action be immediately messaged to the Assembly:
Announcements, Adjournment Honors, and Remarks Under Special Privilege
Senator Carpenter, with unanimous consent, asked the Senate to adjourn in honor of President Joe Biden who is paying a visit to Milwaukee today at the Pabst Theatre to hold his first town hall meeting as President of the United States. Senator Carpenter thanks President Biden for visiting the great state of Wisconsin.
Senator Pfaff, with unanimous consent, asked that the Senate adjourn in honor of his friend Roger William LeGrand Jr. Roger recently passed away after a life well lived in the community he loved. He lived a life of public service, studying to be a catholic priest at Our Lady of Benburb Priory in Northern Ireland, serving as a VISTA volunteer in Florida, and in the Peace Corps, training English teachers in remote south, India. Roger attended the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he was president of the Student Bar Association. Roger served his community with service on the city council, La Crosse School Board, as District Attorney of La Crosse County, where he established the first victim-witness program and founded the La Crosse Domestic Violence Task Force. Roger served as Family Court Commissioner from 1992-2006 until Governor Jim Doyle appointed him Circuit Court Judge, where he established the Law Information Center at the courthouse. Roger continued to stay active in the La Crosse community in retirement in many ways. Roger lived life by this motto: to live, to love, to learn, to celebrate, to savor and be grateful for every moment.
Senator Jacque, with unanimous consent, asked the Senate adjourn in memory of his uncle, Dr. John D. “Jack” Brusky of Allouez, WI, a military veteran, family doctor and dedicated community volunteer and philanthropist who passed away on February 6, 2021.
Senator LeMahieu, with unanimous consent, asked that the Senate recess until 6:45 P.M. for the purpose of awaiting the Governor’s Budget Address in Joint Convention in the Assembly Chambers at 7:00 P.M., and further, that the Senate stand adjourned, pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 1, upon the rising of the Joint Convention.
The Senate proceeded in a body to the Assembly Chamber to meet in Joint Convention to receive the Budget Address.
In Assembly Chamber In
Senate President Kapenga in the chair.
The Honorable Governor Tony Evers delivered his message virtually as follows:
“Good evening, Wisconsinites. Thanks for tuning in.
I’m Tony Evers, and I’m proud to be the 46th governor of our great state and to introduce my 2021-23 biennial budget to you this evening.
Before we begin tonight, I want to mention that today is a pretty important day. And that’s not just because I’m giving my second-ever budget address—it’s because today we have a spring primary across our state. And there are a lot of important things on the ballot, from state superintendent of our schools, local mayors and village board members, judges, and so many others.
Polls close in less than an hour. So, if you haven’t had a chance to vote yet and you’re watching from home, hit pause, grab your mask, your photo ID, and your proof of residence if you need to register, find your polling location by going to myvote.wi.gov and get there right away. And remember, you just need to be in line by 8 p.m. to vote. Voting is such an important part of our democracy, so don’t worry—I promise I won’t be offended, and I’ll still be here on YouTube when you get back.
When I gave my State of the State address last month, I talked about the struggles we’ve shared this past year, and the challenges we have faced and will face in the days ahead. I know I don’t have to tell you how hard this past year has been because we’ve lived it—you’ve lived it.
People across our state and country spent the better part of the last year worried—worried about how you’ll see a doctor or afford your prescriptions, worried about taking care of your loved ones from a distance, worried about affording childcare for your kids, and how this pandemic has affected them. I know there have been sleepless nights worrying about finding work or being safe at work, worrying about the future of the business you built from the ground up, worrying about making sure you can keep the lights and heat on at home.
So, as you’re watching tonight filled with a year’s worth of worry, I know you’re also wondering whether we will claw out of this crisis, where we can go from here, how we get back on track, and what’s next.
Well, tonight, Wisconsin, I want to tell you this: it’s going to be ok. We are going to be ok.
As both a state and a country, we find ourselves with a decision to make—when this pandemic is over, we could go back to the way things always were and always have been, or we can take this moment to demand the future we dream.
We could ignore the problems this pandemic brought to the forefront, or we can face them and fix them, together.
We could make excuses for the last decade of decision-makers who cut corners, or we can commit right now to start putting people first.
Well, Wisconsin, we aren’t going to retrace our steps back to the way things were.
We aren’t going to follow the map back to where we started when this pandemic began.
After all we’ve been through, we aren’t going to apologize for wanting more for each other—for our neighbors, for our kids, our parents and grandparents, and our state’s future.
So, I want to tell you something tonight and I need you to really hear me—don’t let anyone tell you we can’t afford to make healthcare more accessible while saving your hard-earned tax dollars. Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t afford to fully fund our public schools while cutting taxes at the same time. Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t afford to support our farmers, our rural communities, and our small businesses while protecting our natural resources and investing in new, clean jobs. Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t spend within our means while still supporting Wisconsinites who need help to recover.
Because they’re wrong. We can. I’ve got a blueprint that will do just that and make sure we bounce back and better than before.
But I didn’t sit in a room and write it all by myself—I’m not about to make decisions about you, without you. So, just like we did two years ago, we went directly to folks from across our state to ask for your help putting together our Badger Bounceback agenda that I’m excited to share here tonight.
Take a look.
Now with all of the bad news out there, there is some good news. Our Badger Bounceback agenda has bold solutions to address the urgent crisis we face. And the good news is the Badger Bounceback is possible because we made critical decisions to get our state in the best position to be able to help folks recover and put this pandemic behind us.
Just before our last budget was signed, we decided to take the unprecedented step of making a payment on our state’s debt. We paid off $56 million early that helped save Wisconsin taxpayers an estimated nearly $70 million in future debt service payments. And in response to this pandemic, just as so many have had to make sacrifices this past year, I asked our state agencies to make sacrifices, too. At my direction, they found hundreds of millions in cost savings over two fiscal years to make sure we had resources available to respond to this pandemic and invest in our economic recovery.
We’ve made some tough choices these past few months. But because of the financial position our state is in, this week we were able to announce part of our Badger Bounceback agenda will include significant investments in economic recovery for small businesses across our state. I was proud that more than $370 million of our CARES funds went to supporting Wisconsin businesses, including nearly 53,000 of our small businesses, more than 15,000 farms, and our lodging, hospitality, and tourism industries. But we also know we have a long road ahead of us and our Main Street businesses need help now.
That’s why we’re going to make unprecedented investments in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to be able to help support our small businesses and economic development. Our Badger Bounceback agenda makes a larger state investment into the WEDC than the last three budgets combined. We’re going to put $200 million into helping small businesses affected by the pandemic, including helping them retain and rehire the jobs they’ve lost. And we know that if we want to come out on the other side of this pandemic stronger than ever, we need to commit to investing in innovation and economic growth, too. That’s why we’re also going to invest $100 million into a venture capital program to jumpstart innovation and startups in Wisconsin.
But as I’ve said all along, if we’re going to get serious about economic development in our state, then we have to connect the dots. And you’ve heard me say that a lot—connect the dots. It means recognizing how every issue our state is facing affects all of the others. We have to understand how having good roads and transportation affects small businesses and farmers getting their product from Point A to Point B. We have to understand how lack of access to affordable housing affects kids in the classroom. We have to understand how lead pollution and poor water quality affects our healthcare system. We have to connect those dots between these issues to make sure we can recover from this crisis. And that’s why, in the coming days, the WEDC will also be announcing our administration’s vision for economic development to make sure we can bounce back with an economy that works for everyone.
But that’s just part of our Badger Bounceback agenda.
Because it begins, as it always does for me, by doing what’s best for our kids. It starts with education.
If we’re going to bounce back from this pandemic, then we have to start by making sure our kids are better off than when we started this pandemic. Every kid in our state should have access to high-quality, public education. Period. But it has to start early—we know the first few years of our kids’ lives help define their future. And for many Wisconsin families, quality childcare is something that isn’t available or affordable.
That’s why last week I announced that my budget will invest $140 million to support our kids and our families—to address quality, access, and equity in our early education and childcare system for our kids, all while supporting the folks who care for them.
And those investments can’t stop when our kids grow up and head off to kindergarten.
So, for the second budget in a row, our Badger Bounceback agenda proposes that this state delivers on its commitment to two-thirds funding for our schools. Look, Republicans and Democrats agree on this issue, including two years ago when two-thirds funding was backed by a Republican-led, bipartisan commission. It should’ve been passed in our last budget or in the special session of the Legislature I called last year. Unfortunately, the Legislature couldn’t get it done in either case. Well, here’s the bottom line: if members of the Legislature are going to make promises on this, then they sure ought to keep them. Let’s stop talking about it and just get it done.
And two-thirds funding isn’t the only place we’ve seen public education investments sidelined by politics despite having broad public support—the same goes for special education. I was proud my last budget provided $95 million more for special education funding—it was the first increase in more than a decade. And that was a big step forward, but the fact of the matter is, after a decade of failing to provide more funding, we still have a lot more to get where we need to go. That’s why this budget proposes trying to help close that gap with a more than $709 million investment in special education aid.
And, finally, we’re also going to invest in supporting our rural schools by fully funding sparsity aid with a $20 million investment. The reality is that our public schools from Kickapoo to Cashton have been doing much more with far less for far too long, and these investments will not only enhance direct support to some of our most vulnerable students, but provide schools with the budget flexibility to fund things like mental health services, keeping buses running, technology, and other critical needs.
And our work can’t stop when our kids finish high school—our higher education institutions have always been an economic driver for our state, and we need to double down if we’re going to bounce back.
Our universities and technical colleges systems have a proud and proven history of not only preparing students to enter the workforce, but of generating billions of dollars of economic activity statewide and bringing thousands of jobs to communities all across our state. It’s a direct pipeline to the skills, innovation and research, and creativity that will help our families, communities, and our state bounce back, and it’s an investment that will pay dividends for our future.
So, we’re going to build on the success of our state’s technical colleges for the more than 280,000 students they serve and employers who count on them for Wisconsin’s highly skilled workforce by providing an additional $36 million investment over the next two years.
But we also have to make sure higher education is something that’s accessible, affordable, and therefore attainable to all those who choose to pursue it.
So, we’re going to keep the tuition freeze for our System campuses. And we’re also going to expand Bucky’s Tuition Promise to all UW System campuses statewide ensuring students from low-income households can get a 4-year education at no cost to them or their families.
And while we’re going to freeze tuition, we’re also going to fund that freeze and invest $190 million into the UW System over the next two years. So at the end of this biennium when all is said and done, the state will again be investing more GPR dollars annually in the UW System than the Department of Corrections.