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Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

I hope you are staying safe and warm in what has been a cold and snowy winter. As a reminder, if you or someone who know needs energy assistance, visit KeepWarmMKE.org for resources. 

Last week, Governor Evers gave his first budget address. Following the address, the Joint Finance Committee officially introduced the budget to the Legislature. I am excited to see the governor make major investments in the things our community members care about, like health care access. This month's newsletter will recap some of the major provisions included in the governor's first budget document. 


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

 

Contents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tax Filing Assitance and EITC Reminder!

The deadline for filing 2018 personal income tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019.  

Additionally, every year countless Milwaukee County taxpayers miss out on the benefits of refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). To qualify for EITC, you must meet certain requirements and file a tax return (even if you do not owe any taxes or aren’t required to file). EITC reduces the amount of taxes you owe and could provide you a refund.

Furthermore, you may also qualify for FREE tax advice and preparation through the 
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.


Find a free tax preparation site for those who qualify, here. 

 

Governor Evers gives his first State Budget Address
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A state budget is about priorities, it sets the precedent in Wisconsin state government for the next two years. I am so pleased that after eight years, the administration's priorities for the budget finally aligns with the values and needs of Wisconsin families. I applaud Governor Evers on unveiling a bold vision for the state in his first state budget.

All of our children, regardless of their zip code, should be given an opportunity to thrive, and I am filled with hope knowing that his budget invests in our communities and works towards this goal.

During his first budget address, Governor Evers talked about a budget that 'connects the dots.' Having a governor that understands how housing, health care and criminal justice are interconnected is extremely critical to make sure we are utilizing our state resources in an intentional, strategic way. 

I'll be providing more details about the state budget throughout the next weeks and months. In the meantime, here are some of the provisions within the budget that I am particularly excited about:

  • Healthy Women, Healthy Babies
    Governor Evers announced that he will include close to $28 million in his budget to improve women’s access to preventive care, supporting healthier maternity care, and addressing racial disparities in maternal and child health.

    Wisconsin's infant mortality racial disparities are extremely alarming; between 2014 and 2016, the rate for white babies was 4.8 per 1,000 births; for black babies, the rate was 14.2 per 1,000. Governor Evers’ budget will take steps towards addressing this disparity by creating an Infant Mortality Prevention Program in the Department of Health Services. The program will work to assist families by removing barriers to healthy pregnancies like unstable housing, lack of nutritional support, and unemployment. The initiative also includes funding for the Family Foundations Home Visiting Program.
     

    The Family Foundations Home Visiting Program has proven to be an effective way to increase healthy outcomes for children and mothers. I am delighted that home visiting programs will be given the funding needed to help more families prosper and raise healthy children.

  • Expanding BadgerCare  and Mental Health Care to More Wisconsin Families
    In order to provide more Wisconsinites with access to affordable, quality health care, the governor is taking advantage of federal funding available to expand Medicaid. This move will cover 82,000 hardworking people in our state, while also saving Wisconsin money. It's a win-win for Wisconsin. 

    Expanding our state's Medicaid program allows us to put those savings back into health care. One of the investments I am happy to see the governor prioritize is in mental health care access. For instance, Governor Evers' budget supports our local governments in providing Crisis Intervention programs. These programs include telephone and walk-in services, mobile crisis services, and short-term hospitalization. Additionally, the budget supports our schools by providing them with more resources to help students facing trauma, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. 

  • Supporting Children and Families with 'What's Best for Kids'
    When when I met with Governor Evers to discuss my vision for our state, a top priority of mine was supporting 53206, specifically by ensuring the community has access to high-quality child care. I was thrilled last week when the governor unveiled his plan to invest in a child care grant program to help child care providers increase the overall level of quality of their programs. Additionally, the budget directs the Department of Children and Families to initiate the process to establish the first five-star child care center in the 53206 community. 

    Child care affordability is another way Governor Evers is supporting families in his first budget. Child care rates paid under the Wisconsin Shares program have fallen significantly behind market rates. The budget increases provider rates to ensure providers are paid, at minimum, at the 50th percentile of the market rate. The budget also recommends in his budget a child and dependent care credit, equal to 50 percent of the same credit offered at the federal level.

    There are lots of great things for children included in this budget. One that is particularly exciting is the long-overdue investment in special education in Wisconsin. Special education reimbursement to school districts has lagged over the years, with the state's share of those costs currently sitting at around 25 percent. This budget invests in our local schools be reimbursing 60 percent of the cost by the end of the biennium. 

These are just some of the major provisions included in the budget as announced last week by Governor Evers. There are many other exciting provisions, including investing in lead abatement, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and putting 17-year-old youth offenders back into the juvenile justice system rather than adult courts. 

You can read a summary of all the major provisions, here

As a member of the Joint Finance Committee, I will push hard to ensure the funding that Governor Evers’ budget dedicates to children and families will remain and be enacted into law. It is my sincere hope that during this budget process the interests of Wisconsin children will not be the subject of political grandstanding or partisan bickering. 
The people elected Gov. Evers as a champion for children’s issues and he is fulfilling the promises he made to all Wisconsinites. I am honored to continue the fight for a budget that provides our communities with real opportunities to succeed and invest in future generations to move Wisconsin forward. 

 

 

Wisconsin State Budget Process

 

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As a policymaker and member of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, ensuring our community's values and priorities are represented on this powerful committee is of utmost importance to me. Representing Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin is a great honor, and one that I take very seriously. As part of the Joint Finance Committee, I will focus on building a budget that expands economic opportunity in our local communities.

Wisconsin's Budget Process
All of us are impacted by the decisions made during the state budget process every single day. When you drive down the street, the conditions of the road are impacted by the choices lawmakers make during the budget process. Likewise, the quality of your child's school is heavily influenced by the state's spending actions.

Wisconsin is unique in the amount of power and influence the Joint Finance Committee has in determining what our state budget looks like. Before reaching the Committee, the process begins in even-numbered years with state agencies submitting their budget requests to the governor after receiving his or her guidance on spending limits they must abide by. In February of the following year, the governor proposes their preliminary version of the budget.

After receiving and carefully examining the governor's proposed biennial budget and being briefed by the state agencies and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the Joint Finance Committee hosts public hearings across the state to get input from Wisconsinites. The Committee then makes changes to the budget, based on the feedback they receive from the public and other stakeholders, during executive sessions.


After making their revisions, the Joint Finance Committee submits their version of the state budget to the full Legislature for review, final modification, and passage. After both houses of the Legislature pass identical versions of the state budget, it goes to the governor's desk for signature into law.


Before signing the bill into law, the governor can make item-line vetoes. This means they can cross out whole items, change dollar values, or delete certain words or language from the document.

For an in-depth look at the Wisconsin budget process, click here to view a document on this topic by the Wisconsin Budget Project.


Being a Strong Voice on the Joint Finance Committee 
Since its creation in 1911, over 360 individuals have served on the Joint Finance Committee, including 34 senate co-chairs and 34 assembly co-chairs. The duties and responsibilities of each member of the Joint Finance Committee are no small feat. While this Committee's work can be challenging, it is essential for our communities across the state to thrive and I am looking forward to representing you as a member of the Joint Finance Committee.


For real-time updates on Joint Finance Committee activity, 'like' the WI Joint Finance Committee Democrats Facebook page!

 

 

 

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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District Office Open House!
A big THANK YOU to everyone who came to see our new district office last week. Located at 6815 W Capitol Drive (Suite 307), my district office is another way to be engaged in state government by meeting with my staff and me to discuss issues that are important to you! 
I consider it an honor and privilege to serve the people of the 6th Senate District. My staff and I are here to listen to any state or community concerns you have. To reach my district office by phone, dial (414) 313-1241.

 

Visiting Churches Around the District 
This past month, I was honored to visit several churches around the community. I want to thank the community and leaders at Capitol Drive Lutheran Church, Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church, and Church of Gesu for allowing me to worship with you. I look forward to seeing many more of you at your places of worship throughout the coming weeks. 
 

Community Advocates Public Policy Institute
As part of their Public Policy Institute, I had an opportunity to speak with community members abou
t policy changes that will ensure Wisconsin adults have the tools and support needed to thrive. I joined other lawmakers, including Senator Kooyenga and Representatives Goyke and Riemer in discussing issues such as transitional jobs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, health care access and affordability, and criminal justice reform. Overall, we had a thoughtful dialogue on these important issues.  

 

Matilda Ward Youth Empowerment Assoc.
I was honored to have received a Community Public Service Award at the Matilda Ward Youth Empowerment Association Valentine’s Day dinner!  The Matilda Ward Youth Empowerment Association is a phenomenal organization that supports youth activities offered on the north side of Milwaukee. 

 

Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention & Poverty Network 
Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to meet with both FACT teens and adult Network members. The FACT teens and adults provided updates on the current state of tobacco in Milwaukee/Wisconsin, and efforts they are taking to spread awareness about the impact of tobacco. 

 

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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Photo credit: WISN 12, UpFront

WISN's UpFront 

This past Sunday, I was on WISN's UpFront show with new host Adrienne Pedersen talking about the state budget. During the show, we covered key pieces of the state budget that I would like to see remain in the final document upon passage, including increased investments in mental health care. Watch the clip, here. 

'Stuck in the Middle' with Andy Jorgensen 
I sat down with my former Assembly colleague, Andy Jorgensen, last month to discuss the competing middle-class tax proposals being discussed by the governor and legislative Republicans. As you may know, Governor Evers was transparent about his plans to include a middle-class tax cut in his now-introduced state budget. Senate and Assembly Republicans, however, came out with their own unsustainable plan and passed it through the Legislature. Andy and I discussed this issue and more during his show, which you can listen to here. 

Community Voice with Host Keith Parris
A couple weeks ago, I sat down with Keith Parris of WNOV to discuss what's happening in the Legislature. One of topics we discussed was what happened when the Legislature took up a joint resolution pertaining to Black History Month.

Earlier in February, members of the Legislative Black Caucus brought forth the joint resolution meant to formally acknowledge February as Black History Month and honor African Americans for their achievements. In an appalling move, Republicans in the State Legislature took the insulting approach to change the resolution, specifically by removing Colin Kaepernick from being named on the resolution. 

Race relations should not be something that has to be taught from the Senate floor, and I found the move by legislative Republicans to decide who their colleagues can honor for their contributions utterly degrading and infuriating. The fact that no Senate Republicans stood up to defend their actions was also incredibly disappointing.

 

Joining Governor Evers in Announcing his 'Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies' Initiative
Before unveiling his full budget plan, Governor Evers held a press conference in the 6th Senate District to announce his plans to invest in women's health and the prevention of infant mortality. I was honored to stand alongside the governor at the press conference to talk about the importance of his proposals, such as investing in home visitation programs and increasing access to health care after having a baby. Overall, the state budget promotes healthy families with a $28 million investment in the aforementioned programs. 

 

 

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!