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 April 16, 2021



Last week, the Joint Finance Committee held the first of the public hearings that we always host around the state prior to our deliberations on the two-year state budget.  It was our privilege to hear directly from many people who share our desire for strong schools, affordable high-quality health care and safe infrastructure.  Next week, we'll travel north for a few days to hear from folks as far away as Rhinelander and then in Menomonie; concluding our tour will be a virtual-only hearing day to occur in a couple weeks.


In fact, the Joint Finance Committee has its own webpage dedicated to providing you with information and choices for sharing your input.  From here, you may learn the details of the in-person hearing events; stream the proceedings online; or submit your own comments electronically at your convenience.


Last week, I shared big news about billions of dollars that will arrive in Wisconsin soon.  Twice already, Governor Evers has vetoed opportunities for him to work cooperatively with the Legislature to develop plans for putting this money to best use.


So, this week we tried a different tack.  Both the Assembly and Senate convened and advanced a series of simple proposals to Governor Evers that we hope he will join.  There are no tricks here and no "poison pills" that we think he couldn't support; rather, these are standalone proposals to help our state right now and help our state in the future with the money that is coming soon (whether we needed it or not, as I discussed last week):


  • A one-time 10 percent rebate check to every property taxpayer in Wisconsin;
  • New grant assistance for small business owners;
  • New tourism grant assistance and an expanded tourism advertising campaign;
  • New rural economic development grants and farming support grants;
  • Nursing home and assisted living center grants and worker pay bonuses;
  • Keeping Unemployment Insurance tax rates for employers at the lowest possible schedule;
  • $2 million per county plus $2,000 per road mile for every city, village and town for road improvements;
  • New broadband expansion grants (which are effectively doubled by matching funds from the private sector, for a total new investment of $1 billion);
  • Emergency medical services technology improvements and a new mental health hospital in western Wisconsin, where access is extremely limited;
  • $500 million worth of early debt retirement; and
  • $61 million for water infrastructure.


As I have described previously, I think Congress went too far and borrowed too much money from our children and grandchildren to send billions to Wisconsin that, frankly, we don't need.  But whether we like it or not, that money is coming.  So we've identified priorities that we think Republicans and Democrats alike can agree upon.


The bills have passed both the Assembly and Senate and will be on Governor Evers' desk very soon.  Again, they are eleven separate standalone proposals; if there's something he doesn't like, he has options to veto some and sign the rest into law.  We invite him to join us in this latest opportunity to enact smart, sound investments not only for our future -- but also to meet challenges we face right now!


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In Case You Missed It: Education Tidbits


More than $1.5 billion in new federal funding for K-12 education will arrive in Wisconsin soon, and there are many opportunities to keep improving upon how we prepare our students to be engaged citizens.  Here are a few stories you may not have seen anywhere else yet:


  • A new coalition is calling for policymakers throughout the legislature, Governor and Department of Public Instruction to use this unprecedented opportunity to increase course access for struggling students.  The group acknowledge that, even pre-Covid-19, Wisconsin struggled with significant achievement gaps; those gaps have gotten worse over the past year; and families need options to catch up.  Read more here about the coalition's proposals to give schools and families the tools they are going to need to succeed.


  • A group of Wisconsin taxpayers have filed a lawsuit against the state Higher Educational Aids Board.  The board administers about $800,000 in taxpayer funds each year to award university scholarships, based on financial need, of $250 to $2,500 per student.  The problem?  The plaintiffs assert that the "Minority Grant Program" unconstitutionally excludes some students on the basis of race and national origin.  Read more here.


  • A bill that I coauthored that requires Wisconsin students to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides is headed to Governor Evers' desk for his signature.  Committee testimony revealed that about 22 percent of millennials have never heard of or are unsure of what the Holocaust was; nearly two-thirds couldn't identify Auschwitz.  Assembly Bill 55 guarantees that students learn at least once about the Holocaust between grades 5 to 8 and again during high school.  With the governor's signature, the bill will go into effect during the 2022-23 school year.  As the Legislature deliberated this bill, we heard from Ms. Eva Zaret, a resident of Milwaukee and herself a Holocaust survivor.  She graciously shared her family's story and urged us to see to it that our children never forget what occurred not so long ago.  I urge you to spend two minutes to listen to her story for yourself (click on her picture immediately below to watch the video).




Rest in Peace, American Hero



This past December, Air Force Major Durwood "Hawk" Jones perished during a nighttime training exercise in remote northern Michigan.  Tomorrow (Saturday), Wisconsin's 115th Fighter Wing will conduct a private memorial service.  Airmen from Major Jones' squadron and from his brother's fighter squadron from the Oregon Air National Guard will fly together over Madison and execute a "missing man" formation to salute their fallen comrade.


Major Jones was an experienced pilot and a decorated veteran.  He joined the Air National Guard in 2011; flew F-16s since 2015; deployed to Japan in 2015; deployed to South Korea in 2017; and served a combat tour in Afghanistan in 2019.  His decorations included two Air Medals with combat "C" devices awarded for operating under hostile combat conditions.


Our servicemembers volunteer for careers of sacrifice.  For many of them, what they consider a routine day is in fact difficult, dangerous work.  They are modern-day heroes; I deeply appreciate their courage; and I hope you'll join me in pausing for a moment tomorrow to remember our fallen American brother.


Major Jones is survived by his wife and two children.  Two of the aircraft flying in tomorrow's formation will carry U.S. flags in the cockpits that will be presented to his children in memory of his sacrifice.  Tomorrow's memorial service is a private event, but the general public is invited to watch the flyover event live online on the 115th Fighter Wing's Facebook page at approximately 11:30 AM.



Office of Representative Terry Katsma
State Capitol, Room 306 East
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-0656
Rep.Katsma@legis.wisconsin.gov|  |