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State Capitol
Room 307 West
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-5780

Toll Free:
(888) 534-0095


Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you all have been enjoying the beautiful weather and safely spending time with your friends and families. It has been a busy past few weeks in La Crosse and Madison with in-person meetings and visits becoming more frequent. I have enjoyed getting back out into our community and speaking with many of you face-to-face.

In the photo above, I had the pleasure of meeting with US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Congressman Ron Kind at a Dairyland Power Cooperative event early last week. In La Crosse, I have been fortunate to tour Fort McCoy, visit many of our small businesses, participate in listening sessions, attend open houses, and more. In Madison, I have stayed busy as Subcommittee Chair and member of the State Building Commission, ranking member of the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention, and also participating in floor sessions of the State Assembly.

lease continue reading for more details about the Governor’s call to expand BadgerCare, an update from the Joint Finance Committee, details about new assistance programs for Wisconsinites, and more.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns by calling (608) 266-5780 or emailing me at Rep.Billings@legis.wi.gov.

Best Wishes, 

Jill Billings
State Representative 
95th Assembly District

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Efforts to Expand BadgerCare and Bring Home $1 Billion Rejected by Republicans

Governor Evers recently called for a special session to expand BadgerCare and invest the $1 billion in cost savings realized under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into Wisconsin’s economic recovery into more than 50 projects and economic development initiatives across the state. The $1 billion in federal funding is no-strings attached, unlike most funding, and it is in addition to the $624 million that Wisconsin would save over the next two years by expanding BadgerCare. I was in Madison and ready to take action during this special session; unfortunately, Republicans gaveled in and out on May 25, refusing to take up the bill or even debate the issue. This is yet another missed opportunity for our state.

I have long supported BadgerCare expansion and bringing our federal health care dollars home. More than 90,000 Wisconsinites would became eligible for quality health care coverage with this expansion. Thirty-eight states across the county, both red and blue states, have recognized the benefits of making healthcare more affordable and accessible, and have received significant federal funding for doing so. There is no good reason for the continued inaction by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Funds Allocated to Small Business, Energy Assistance Programs, and Broadband Expansion

 Broadband Expansion:

On May 18, Governor Evers announced that the PSC will launch a round of broadband expansion funding using $100 million from the federal ARPA funds to expand high-speed broadband internet across the state. Projects from previous broadband funding from the federal CARES act provided new or improved access to service for more than 20,000 homes, businesses, and farms across the state. The PSC made applications available, including information on project eligibility guidelines, for this first round of federal broadband funding on June 1, 2021, with applications due on July 27, 2021. More information regarding the PSC's broadband access and affordability programs can be found here.

Energy Assistance Programs:

Governor Evers, with the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) and the Public Service Commission (PSC), made $21 million available to help cover utility bill arrearages for more than 36,000 qualifying utility customers throughout Wisconsin through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). Funding for WHEAP comes from Wisconsin’s federal fiscal year 2021 allocation for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). More information on the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) can be found on the Home Energy website and applications can be completed here.

Small Business Recovery Grants:

Governor Evers recently announced the application dates for the new Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant program. Applications for the program will be opened through Monday, June 7 at 4:30 pm. These grants will provide a flat award of $5,000 to as many as 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses with annual gross revenue ranging from $10,000 to $7 million. These grants were made possible by the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). More information can be found on the Department of Revenue website, and applications can be completed here.


Joint Finance Committee Approved Funding for K-12 Schools and Higher Education—Jeopardizes Federal Pandemic Aid

 Last week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) took action on the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and Higher Education’s 2021-23 biennial budgets. Unfortunately, the federal Department of Education sent a letter to DPI explaining that the funding levels approved by the JFC would not count toward the maintenance of effort requirement to qualify for additional federal funds. More information is below.

Department of Public Instruction

Democrats on the JFC offered Motion #51 which was nearly identical to Governor Evers’ DPI budget. The omnibus motion would allocate over $1.5 billion in GPR total school aid, an increase of 12.4% over the base year doubled. 

The Categorical Aids in the motion contained a number of provisions including $709.5 million in special education aid; this would bring the state reimbursement to 45% in 2021 and 50% in 2022. The motion also invested in a number of areas including: $46.5 million in school mental health aid, $28.032 million in bilingual bicultural aid, $19.96 million in sparsity aid, and $4 million in high cost transportation aid. The motion failed along party lines 4-11.

The Republicans on the committee moved Motion #59 which included a total GPR increase of $128 million in total K-12 funding. The budget included just 10% of what Governor Evers proposed. The motion provided $85.4 million in special education funding, and it is unlikely that this funding would achieve the proration rate of 30% in the second year of the biennium. As it stands, funding levels in this motion would not meet the maintenance of effort to qualify for federal coronavirus funds, which would mean Wisconsin would not qualify for any of the federal funds in the CARES, CAA or ARPA for ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief). The motion passed 11-4.

Higher Education (WTCS, HEAB, UW-System)

Democrats on the committee offered omnibus Motion #55 for the Wisconsin Tech College System, Higher Educational Aids Board and UW System. The motion would fund the Governor’s budget requests for all of higher education, including fully funding the UW tuition freeze for the biennium and over $187 million in total additional state tax dollar investment in higher education compared to current funding levels. The motion failed along party lines 4-11.

Republicans offered omnibus Motion #58 for higher education. The motion included no increases in general aids for UW system or HEAB, with total additional state tax dollar investment of just $21 million for the biennium. The motion also took no action on the UW system in-state tuition freeze, which under current law is set to expire at the end of the 2019-21 biennium. Pending UW Regent action, Republicans effectively increased UW system tuition for in-state students and their families after 8 years of the freeze. Finally, the motion’s spending increase does not match the minimum maintenance of effort requirements under the federal coronavirus acts, meaning without additional investment in higher education, Wisconsin would not currently qualify for ESSER funds. The Republican motion passed 11-4.

State Building Commission Approves to UW-La Crosse Projects

On Wednesday, May 26, members of the State Building Commission unanimously approved two projects that make improvements to the UW-La Crosse campus. The first project improves the Frederick and Toland Theater. This project replaces the theatrical rigging and repairs stage fire suppression curtains in the Frederick and Toland theaters located in Morris Hall and the Center for Arts on the La Crosse campus. The improvements will correct identified safety issues, including asbestos removal, and improve operations in the theaters with newer technology. The second project replaces below basement grade storm sewer piping and building roof drains in Murphy Library to eliminate interior flooding episodes.


I visited Fort McCoy where I was able to tour the Army Reserve Medical Regional Training Site and observe the Army Reserve Soldiers taking part in the Expert Field Medical Badge competition.


It was great to join Grow La Crosse and Senator Brad Pfaff at Hamilton Elementary School/SOTA 1 La Crosse. I enjoyed learning about this great partnership to help to teach the next generation about science in a hands-on fashion.


It was a pleasure to march in the Memorial Day Parade and honor our fallen soldiers at Oak Grove Cemetery and Riverside Park. 


My first event with Mayor Reynolds. I was proud to join Hmong-Lao Veterans in our community to recognize Hmong-Lao Memorial Day. Governor Evers recently signed 2021 Wisconsin Act 31 into law to recognize Hmong-Lao Memorial Day in Wisconsin.


I visited the Sweet Shop in La Crosse when touring a number of local businesses. Last week, Senator Brad Pfaff and I presented the owner of The Sweet Shop, William Espe, with a legislative citation to commemorate their 100th year of business in La Crosse.


Earlier this week, I visited with Shy and Maya from the Hope Restores organization in La Crosse—a resource center for African Americans. The mission of Hope Restores is to support, advocate, listen, and bridge the gap between African Americans in our community.


I joined Lt. Governor Barnes and Senator Pfaff  with both officials and students from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in support of funding for the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin in the budget. This important program would help Wisconsin be the Silicon Valley of freshwater, and UW-La Crosse to be a national leader on issues impacting the Mississippi River!