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Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

The Joint Finance Committee recently concluded their work on the state budget and sent it to the full Legislature to be voted on where is passed both the Assembly and Senate with bipartisan opposition. The budget will now head over to Governor Evers' desk for his signature into law or veto.  

A lot of changes were made to the budget proposal submitted to the Joint Finance Committee by Governor Evers and at the end of the day, my Democratic colleagues and I voted against its final passage due to the major modifications made by Republicans that went against the will of the people of Wisconsin. A summary of what happened over the last several weeks in the budget-writing Committee is included in this edition of Community Connections newsletter.  

Also, I wanted to make sure you knew that my office will be out in the community going door-to-door to gather input and ideas from you! More information about this initiative can be found in the 'In the District' section below. 


As always, please let my office know what state and community issues are important to you! 


Sincerely, 

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LaTonya Johnson
State Senator

 

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Governor Evers Brings Back Pardon Board


After nearly a decade of inactivity,  Governor Tony Evers announced he is re-launching the state's pardon board. The governor and I both agree that forgiveness and redemption should be a part of our Wisconsin justice system. I applaud Governor Evers for creating a pardon process for those in our system who have served their time and deserve a second chance. 

Pardons are different than expungement as a pardon is a grant of forgiveness from the governor that can restore some rights and privileges, but does not mean that a conviction is expunged, erased, vacated, or sealed.

Click here for more information about the recently re-launched pardon board, including information on how to apply. 

 

Joint Finance Committee, Full Legislature Pass State Budget

 

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On June 13, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) wrapped up their work on the state budget. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve on the Committee for my first time and fight for a better Wisconsin for all of us. 

As an elected official, one thing I remind myself of when I come to the State Capitol is that the communities we serve are only as strong as those who are struggling. We owe it to hardworking families to ensure they all have an opportunity to thrive.


Governor Evers proposed a true People's Budget, a plan centered on an opportunity to increase equity and fairness throughout the state of Wisconsin by making bold investments in the health and wellbeing of our people, our children, and our families. 

Unfortunately, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee missed a huge opportunity to support a budget that would have positively impacted the lives of all Wisconsin families, rather than needlessly picking winners and losers.

The long list of missed opportunities began on day one with the rejection of billions of federal dollars to invest in the health of Wisconsinites and continued with slashing special education funding in Governor Evers' budget by 83% and rejecting a long-term transportation funding plan.

Here is a recap of the major budget items taken up in the Joint Finance Committee in May and June:

Health Care

Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the Governor’s full budget request for Health Services, including the federal dollars and state savings associated with Medicaid expansion. Co-Chair Nygren ruled the motion out of order as not under budgetary consideration, per Motion #5 at the May 9 JFC meeting.

Republicans introduced an omnibus motion that funded DHS programs at $187.5 million less than Governor Evers’ budget request, not counting Medicaid expansion, and about $900 million less including Medicaid expansion, a lynchpin of Governor Evers’ budget request. During debate on the Republican motion, Co-Chair Nygren refused Democrats their request of a short recess to ask LFB questions about items in the motion. The Republican motion included tens of millions less in investments to various health care programs including lead exposure prevention. The Republican motion passed along a 4-11 party-line vote.

K-12 Education

Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the governor’s education budget. The motion included an additional $1.4 billion in K-12 education funding, including an additional $606 million for special education, and two-thirds funding for public education by the state. The motion would have also increased per-pupil revenue limits by $200 in 2019-20 and $204 in 2020-21, with increases indexed thereafter. This motion was rejected by the Republican-controlled committee. 

Republicans introduced their own omnibus motion that funded education at significantly lower rates than Democrats. Their motion included a $500 million total increase, $900 million less than Democrats. The Republicans’ omnibus included a $97 million increase for special education, over a half billion less than what Democrats proposed. Democrats introduced an amendment to the Republicans’ omnibus to fund special education at the Governor’s requested levels. During debate, Democrats argued that education funding in Wisconsin has been stagnant over the past eight years and that Governor Evers’ budget reinvests in education as a top priority for the state. The Democratic amendment on special education categorical aid failed along party lines, and the Republicans’ omnibus passed along party lines.
 

Children and Families
Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to accept the governor’s budget recommendations for the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The motion increased funding for various programs within DCF, including the Wisconsin Shares child care program, TANF-funded grants, and adoption and foster care programs. Overall, the motion invested an additional $231 million in families over the biennium. The motion was rejected on a party-line vote.

Republicans introduced their own omnibus, funding DCF programs at over $100 million less than Democrats, including less for TANF-funded grants and the Wisconsin Shares program. Democrats introduced a simple amendment to the Republican motion to reject the TANF estimate modification, which would have effectively reversed previous committee action that removed Governor Evers’ expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Democratic amendment was rejected on party lines and the Republican motion passed on party lines.

Transportation 
Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the governor’s full budget request for the Department of Transportation. The motion included an eight cent indexed increase in the gas tax, sustainably funding transportation at over $500 million more than the previous budget, including approximately $73 million from out of state drivers, and paring back most of the GPR transfer included in previous budgets. The Democratic motion failed on party lines.

Republicans introduced an omnibus motion to fund transportation using a combination of fee increases and GPR transfers. The motion increases title fees by $95 and automobile registration fees by $10 from $75 to $85, for a total fee revenue increase of nearly $400 million. It also transfers $177 million in GPR to the transportation fund, including a one-time use of $90 million in budget surplus funds for local roads improvements. The motion passed 11-5 with Sen. Duey Stroebel joining Democrats in voting against the motion.


Land, Water, and Recreation 
The committee unanimously approved Governor Evers budget requests for clean water initiatives within the Environmental Improvement Fund. This includes additional investments of $13.5 million for the clean water fund program and $3.5 million for the safe drinking water loan program. The committee also unanimously extended the maximum loan term for the safe drinking water loan program from 20 years to 30 years, allowing some municipalities to potentially have lower loan payments on major clean water projects.

JFC Democrats attempted to move to re-include for consideration bonding authority for lead service line replacement, an item that was removed from budget consideration early on in the JFC process. Republican JFC Co-Chair Nygren ruled the item out of order and not able to be considered because it had already been removed from consideration by the committee. Democrats moved to appeal the ruling of the chair, but the motion to appeal was defeated by a party-line vote.

Democrats also introduced an omnibus motion to accept most of the Governor’s budget requests for the Department of Natural Resources, including funding for a Natural Resources Science Bureau, $25 million in additional contaminated sediment bonding, increased funding and fees for concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) regulation, increased eligibility for the well compensation fund, and various other programs aimed at clean drinking water. The motion failed along party lines.

Additionally, in order to ensure Wisconsin remains competitive in the tourism industry, Democrats on the committee introduced motions to accept the governor’s budget requests for tourism, including increases in statewide marketing efforts, video production staff and an office of outdoor recreation. Democrats argued during debate that the next couple of years are a unique opportunity for the state to take advantage of major events and exposure, and that JFC should fully fund the governor’s request to accomplish that. Republicans rejected Governor Evers’ tourism budget requests and instead passed a motion to provide a minimal, inflationary increase for marketing funding.
 

Housing, Justice, and Investing in Local Communities
To ensure our neighbors have access to safe and affordable housing, JFC Democrats moved to include funding for housing assistance and homeless prevention initiatives included in Governor Evers’ budget. This motion was rejected on a party-line vote. 

Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to fund the Department of Justice at levels roughly requested by Governor Evers, including increased funding for crime lab analysts, pay progression, investigative resources, and an $8 million increase for the treatment alternatives and diversion (TAD) program over the biennium. The motion failed along party lines.

Republicans introduced an omnibus to fund DOJ at lower levels than Democrats, including $6 million less for the TAD program. The Republican motion passed on party lines.

Additionally, Democrats on the committee proposed to accept Governor Evers’ recommendation to increase funding for counties/municipalities by eliminating the list of services paid for by fees that required them to reduce their levy  as local governments are struggling to fund essential services without an increase in the levy limit, and this would help them ease those constraints. Republicans rejected the motion on party lines.

Juvenile Corrections
Democrats introduced a motion to approve the Governor’s budget proposal on juvenile corrections, including his proposals around closing Lincoln Hills once all juveniles are transferred to Secured Residential Care Centers (SRCCs) or new state facilities. The Democrats’ motion also included the Governor’s proposal to raise the age of adult jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years of age, which was one of the items previously removed from debate by Republicans. The entire motion was determined out of order by Rep. Nygren after Democrats refused to strike the provision to raise the age.

Republicans introduced a motion that made no modifications to the timeline for closing Lincoln Hills and removed reimbursements for counties that construct new SRCCs. The motion passed on a party-line vote.

Colleges, Universities, and Access to Higher Education 

Democrats on the committee moved to fully fund the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) budget request of $36 million for the biennium, arguing that it is time to invest in these important institutions at a higher rate than in the past. This was rejected on party lines. Republicans moved to fund WTCS at $25 million over two years, which is lower than what WTCS requested and less than what Democrats and Governor Evers requested.

Democrats also introduced an omnibus motion to accept the Governor’s budget recommendations for the UW system, including extending and paying for the resident undergraduate tuition freeze, establishing a $10 million Nurse Educators program for the UW System, WTCS and nonprofit private institutions, funding for student success and attainment, and a supplemental pay plan to attract top faculty at UW institutions. The motion funded the UW system at a higher rate than any point in the past decade and provided more funding for need-based grants than the last four budgets combined. The Democrats’ motion failed along party lines.

Republicans introduced an omnibus motion to extend the tuition freeze without funding it, and fund UW system programs at nearly $70 million less than the Democrats’ motion. 

Democrats introduced a motion to accept Governor Evers’ recommendation to increase funding for the Wisconsin Grant Program by 5% in both years of the biennium for need-based students at Wisconsin colleges and universities. During debate on this item, Democrats discussed the debilitating student debt that many carry and how important these grants are for students with limited economic means. Republicans rejected the motion on party lines.

Taxes
Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the Governor’s budget request for General Fund Taxes, including items that had been previously removed from budgetary consideration under Motion #5 on May 9. The motion included a tax cut on 68% of income tax filers, with an average tax break of $216 per filer. It also included a new child and dependent care tax credit, increases in the Homestead Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit and research credit, and limitations on the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit. The motion was ruled out of order because it included the items previously removed.

Republicans introduced their own omnibus motion on taxes. It reduced the individual income marginal tax rate for the second income bracket from 5.84 to 5.21% and cost just over $150 million a year, with a tax cut for 62% of filers and average additional break of $75 per filer. It did not include the EITC expansion, Homestead expansion, the Governor’s new child care tax credit, or a research tax credit increase. It also lowered corporate taxes by about $160 million. The Republican motion passed on party lines.

 

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In the News

I'm working hard for Wisconsinites and am fighting to make our communities a better, safer place to live and raise a family. This section of 'Community Connections' will keep you up-to-date on hot topics happening locally, statewide, and nationally. Additionally, I frequently talk to residents of our community, and share your voice and values when talking to members of the media. That said, I'll share articles that I am quoted in, too. 

 

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Going on TV to Discuss the State Budget
With the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee making critical decisions about our state's spending and investments, I was honored to have an opportunity to talk about these important issues on both UpFront and Wisconsin Public Television's Here & Now 

 

 

Press Conference in Response to GOP Plan to Strip Medicaid Expansion from Evers' Budget
Governor Tony Evers made significant investments in his state budget proposal, specifically in places like special education, because that is what the people of Wisconsin asked him to do when he went around the state with Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes to create the People's Budget.

When the Joint Finance Committee took up the education budget  Democrats on the Committee fought to ensure our state is committed to investing in special education in the state budget. See our video about the details of the education budget, here. 


Implementing Automatic Voter Registration in Wisconsin
All Wisconsinites should have the opportunity to participate in our democracy. I was proud to co-sponsor a bill recently to make it easier for community members to make their voices heard by implementing automatic voter registration.

 

In the District

I frequently attend and host events in the 6th Senate District, tour local facilities, and visit schools in our neighborhood. Updates on what's happening locally in our community can be found in this section. I'll also include updates on listening sessions and EMPOWER-MKE events in this section in future editions. 

 

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Volunteer Day with Groundwork Milwaukee
About once a month, my office completes a volunteer project in the district. Today we had the privilege of volunteering at Groundwork Milwaukee and we had a blast gardening. Thank you Groundwork Milwaukee for hosting us! 

Outreach in the 6th Senate District!
This summer, my office will be out in the community gaining input from you and your neighbors. I consider it a privilege to serve you in the Wisconsin State Senate and want to ensure that you know we are a resource for you and your family. We will be knocking on doors over the next several months to get your opinions and thoughts about how I can best serve you in the state Legislature. See you soon! 

Juneteenth Day Festival! 
Juneteenth Day is the oldest celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States and Milwaukee is proud to have one of the largest Juneteenth Day celebrations in the country.

On Juneteenth, we celebrate African American freedom and achievement, encourage continuous self-development and respect for all cultures, and reflect on the history of slavery and the lives lost in the fight for equal rights.

It was great to see many of you at the 48th Annual Northcott Neighborhood House Juneteenth Day Parade and Festival! 

Joining Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes on Fab Lab Day 
May 13th was "Fab Lab Day" in Wisconsin, and on that day,  state leaders announced the next round of Fab Lab funding for local school districts. It was great to join the Lt. Governor in announcing that Gold Meir School, located in the 6th Senate District, received a Fab Lab grant! 

Visiting Churches Around the District 
This past month, I was honored to visit several worship centers around the community. I want to thank the community and leaders at Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, Friend of Sinners Church, Faith Church Milwaukee, and New Covenant Baptist Church, for allowing me to visit your place of worship. 

 

Budget Listening Session with Rep. Evan Goyke
Earlier last month I joined Representative Evan Goyke at his state budget listening sessions in the 6th Senate District. At the listening session, we heard from a variety of community members about the issues that matter most to them. Communicating directly with your elected official is one of the best ways to ensure they know what your positions on issues affecting state government and I want to thank everyone who took time out of their day to have their voice heard! 


Touring Vision Forward
I was pleased to tour Vision Forward last month, a 100-year-old nonprofit in Milwaukee with a mission to empower, educate, and enhance the lives of individuals impacted by vision loss. While at the facility I learned about the impactful work that is being done at Vision Forward and would like to thank them for inviting me! 

 

 

 


Wisconsin Democrats:
Under the Dome Update

Senate and Assembly Democrats provide a weekly update to help keep Wisconsin citizens informed about activity happening at the State Capitol and stay updated on how your elected officials are voting on important issues in Madison. Click on the links below to view recent editions of 'Under the Dome.'

 

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Useful Phone Numbers

There are many levels of state and local government that can help answer questions and get you connected with resources you may need. I have listed some useful phone numbers below. You can also see a comprehensive list of numbers by clicking the link below. If you see a change needed or an important number that should be added, please let me know! 

Congresswoman Gwen Moore.............................414-297-1140
Governor Evers.....................................................608-266-1212
Milwaukee Common Council...............................414-286-2221
Milwaukee Country Board....................................414-278-4222
Milwaukee Police Department.............................414-933-4444
Poison Control......................................................800-222-1222
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program..............800-815-0015

Medigap Helpline.................................................800-242-1060
Consumer Protection Hotline..............................800-422-7128
Department of Health Services............................608-266-1865
Workforce Development......................................608-266-3131
Public Service Commission..................................800-225-7729
SeniorCare Wisconsin.........................................800-657-2038
WI Commissioner of Insurance Complaints.......800-236-8517


For other useful phone numbers, click here!