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December 3, 2021



It may have escaped your attention.  The media mostly ignored the story.  (Unanimous bipartisan votes don't often make the headlines.)  But a potential watershed moment arrived this week in our state's ongoing opioid abuse epidemic.


The State of Wisconsin, as well as 87 local governments within our state borders, have been parties to nationwide litigation against actors who contributed to the opioid epidemic.  The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has voted to accept a proposed settlement against several of these players.


Over the next 18 years, Wisconsin communities and the Department of Health Services (DHS) will receive up to $420 million in compensation.  Another new bipartisan state law enacted earlier this year (bet you didn't hear much about that one in the media, either... bipartisan new laws happen more often than many people realize) specified that 70 percent of the proceeds will be delivered to Wisconsin counties and the other 30 percent to DHS.  All these agencies are required to use the proceeds exclusively for opioid abuse prevention and recovery.


The opioid abuse epidemic has quietly raged on, and intensified, even as the Covid-19 crisis has been at the center of our attention.  Overdose deaths increased by 25 percent and reached a record high in the past year.  This historic settlement adds enormous new resources to a fight that we have been engaged in for too long.


Thanks for reading.  Best wishes on your weekend!


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K-12 Education Funding Update


Governor Tony Evers announced this week that he will use Wisconsin's federal coronavirus relief monies to provide every school district in the state with a $134 per-pupil bonus.  He stated, absurdly, that he is doing so "to help address Legislative Republicans' failure to meaningfully invest in education during the budget process."  That claim deserves a "pants-on-fire" rating from the fact checkers.



First of all: state school aid was already at historic highs prior to the pandemic and will be yet again over the next two years.  Tony Evers surely wants you to believe that only Democrats believe in giving our students the resources they need to succeed; but the fact is that, over the past decade, Republicans have already been directing more actual dollars to classrooms than ever before.



Second: in his criticism of Republicans, the Governor forgot to mention that federal taxpayers have already sent Wisconsin school districts $2.4 billion in extra funding since Covid-19 arrived, which is about $2,898 per pupil.  Republicans accounted for this windfall in this summer's budget.


Isn't that something?  When Republicans budgeted $2,898 per pupil in new funding, the Governor thought that was a "failure," but when he adds $134 more, he changes tune and declares that his add-on "will go a long way."  Hmm.


Third: the Governor's new money has created a new slush fund that may be used, in his words, for "whatever" purpose.  Republicans have gone to great lengths in recent years to target new funding toward specific needs such as student mental health, special education and school security upgrades; unfortunately, the Governor made no such effort with this new money to identify specific student needs or, for that matter, to identify any measurable metrics for student success.



What's more: the Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirmed that the cash will flow only to public schools.  The Governor is providing no way for any private schools (not even Choice schools) to access any of the bonus money.


If Governor Evers truly believed in doing what is best for students everywhere, he would have joined Republicans in incentivizing schools to reopen for in-person instruction; he would be directing any available new monies to classrooms rather than slush funds; and he certainly wouldn't be going out of his way to cut tens of thousands of low- and middle-income students who are enrolled in Wisconsin's school choice programs out of the conversation entirely.  Instead, he has once again chosen to prioritize unions ahead of students.



Stuff Worth Knowin'


  • Julia Nunes (pictured above), the 74th Alice in Dairyland, hopes that you will keep your eyes peeled for the "Something Special from Wisconsin" logo as you finish your Christmas shopping.  Nearly 450 Wisconsin businesses participate in the program that enables shoppers to readily identify locally-grown or manufactured goods that support our own economy.  Learn more about the program and its hundreds of participating businesses online here.



  • The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports that, thanks to Republican reforms over the past decade, property taxes on the average Wisconsin home rose just 1 percent in that span.  In the decade prior, from 2001 to 2011, there was a 31 percent increase.  And this year, despite average home values rising by about 4 percent, the typical home's property taxes will decrease by 3 percent.  This data, of course, is a statewide average; your property taxes depend significantly on your local governments' and school district's spending decisions; but the fact is that Republicans have turned the tide over the past 10 years by holding the line on property tax increases.


  • 2022 Wisconsin state park, forest and trail passes are now available for purchase and, unlike in years past, they are readily available directly from the Department of Natural Resources website for online ordering.  Anybody who visits these sites more than a couple of times per year is probably going to save money by buying the annual pass.  DNR recommends ordering by December 10 if you want to receive your pass in time for the holidays.



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|  |