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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 it passed with most Democrats in opposition. 

I am disheartened by my Republican colleagues' decision to strip many of the critical investments our state needs from Governor Tony Evers original budget proposal. This is yet another missed opportunity by Republicans to support investments that would have increased equity and fairness throughout the state of Wisconsin, rather than needlessly picking winners and losers.

Upon final passage, the budget was sent over to Governor Evers' who utilized his veto authority to improve the proposal before signing it into law. 

A summary of what happened over the last several weeks in the budget-writing Committee is included in this edition of Community Connections newsletter, as well as a statement from Governor Evers' about his decision to sign the 2021-2023 state budget into law.

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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Stop the Spread of Covid-19

A recent uptick in COVID cases has been detected in Wisconsin, and likely stems from the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

To locate a provider near you, CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 Legislature Passes 2021-2023 State Budget


On June 17, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) wrapped up their work on the state budget. 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, and instead placed politics over the people.

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 the refusal to increase special education funding and funding for racial equity initiatives.

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

In its first action on May 6, the GOP members offered Motion 19, which removed 391 items from consideration in the budget moving forward. The removal of these items would mean that after this motion any attempt to reintroduce these items during the committee process would be considered out of order by the chair. The items include significant policy and fiscal proposals, such as BadgerCare Expansion. The Republican motion passed along a 12-4 party-line vote.

The GOP then moved Motion 22, a substitute amendment that would bring the budget back to the base funding levels. This action stripped all of the Governor’s proposed budget and made the committee start from the funding levels in the current fiscal year. The committee would then have to vote to add funding, programming or another action by majority vote. This substitute amendment was passed 12-4 with all Dem members voting no.

Finally, the committee then offered Motion 24, which took up en masse all department’s standard budget adjustments, sum sufficient appropriations, and some agency lapses and transfers. The motion passed along party lines.

 

K-12 Education

On May 27, Democrats on the committee offered Motion #51, which was nearly identical to Governor Evers’ DPI budget. The omnibus motion would allocate over $1.556 billion in total school aid over the biennium. In addition, the motion provided $709.5 million in special education aid, $46.5 million in school mental health aid, and $28.032 million in bilingual bicultural aid. Sadly, the motion failed 4-11.

The Republicans on the committee then moved Motion #59, which contained a $128 million increase in K-12 funding and $85.4 million in special education funding. In total, the GOP’s motion included just 10% of what Governor Evers proposed in his original budget proposal. The motion passed 11-4.

 

Higher Education 

On May 27, Democrats on the committee also 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 invest over $187 million in state dollars for higher education. This motion was rejected by the Republican-controlled committee.

Republicans then offered omnibus Motion #58. The motion included no increases in general aids for UW system, took no action on the UW system in-state tuition freeze, which under current law is set to expire at the end of 2019-21 biennium. As such, Republicans ended the freeze and effectively increased tuition for in-state students and their families.  The Republican motion passed 11-4.

 

Workforce Development 

On June 2, Democrats on the committees offered Motion #67, which would fund several important programs offered by DWD, and provide $8 million in grants to local workforce boards to fund pandemic recovery efforts, $200,000 for health care job recruitment programs, $1 million for green jobs training grants, and $500,000 for Youth and adult apprenticeship programs. Most importantly, the motion included $15 million for UI general administration which is needed to decrease delays in appeals and adjudications. Rather than passing this critical motion, Republicans on the committee chose to reject it.

The GOP offered Motion #72, which modified the governor’s proposal for the youth and adult apprenticeship programs by transfering funds from the Early College Credit Program to DWD for the programs. The Republican motion also provided $25,000 to direct DWD to study a “sliding scale” UI system for the unemployment rate, but did not provide any funding for training grants as the Democratic motion did. The motion passed 12-4.

 

Justice & Juvenile Corrections

On June 8th, Democrats on the committee offered omnibus Motion #75, the Governor’s full capital budget request. The motion contained several important investments in state infrastructure such as $45 million for a Juvenile Corrections Facility in Milwaukee so that Lincoln Hills may finally close. The motion failed 4-11. Republicans then offered Motion #84, which included only $4 million for planning the new Juvenile Corrections Facility in Milwaukee, effectively delaying the closure of Lincoln Hills. The GOP’s motion passed 11-4.

On June 10, Democrats on the committee offered omnibus Motion #92. Unfortunately, the motion was quickly ruled out of order for containing policy items that were removed in Motion 19. The items removed contained policies to reform the criminal justice system, including earned release and revocation alternatives. Democrats then introduced Motion #93, which encompassed the Governor’s budget request for DOC and DCF-Juvenile Justice. The motion failed 4-11.

The Republicans on the committee moved Motion #96. The motion contained none of the criminal justice reforms that have been shown to work at reducing prison populations across the country, $10 million less GPR funding for overtime pay and no additional spending for OAR programs. The motion passed 11-4.

 

Children and Families

On June 15, Democrats on the committee offered Motion #108. The motion included the Governor’s budget request for DCF, funding increases for programs to provide assistance to struggling families, investments to make childcare more affordable, and improve foster care and adoption programs. Overall, the motion increased funds to these critical programs by over $150 million over the biennium. Unfortunately, this motion was also rejected by the Republican-controlled committee. Republicans then offered Motion #110, which increased funding to priority programs by less than half the Governor’s budget request. Motion passed 11-4.

 

Health Care

On June 15, Democrats also offered Motion #103, which would accept Medicaid Expansion and save $1.6 billion in GPR funds. This motion was ruled out of order and the Democrats on the committee appealed the rule of the chair and the ruling was upheld 11-4. Democrats then moved omnibus Motion #109, which would increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes, personal care workers, autism service, emergency physician and dental health. In addition, the proposal would allow Medicaid to cover doula services, community health services, and expand postpartum eligibility for Wisconsin mothers from 60 days to one year. Republicans rejected the motion on party lines.

The GOP offered Motion #111, increasing reimbursement rate for nursing homes, emergency physicians, chiropractic, physical therapy and dental healthcare. The motion funded personal care reimbursement rate more than in the governor’s budget, but  would spend less than the Governor’s budget on community health centers, free and charitable clinics, autism services, Alzheimer’s family and caregiver support, regional crisis response system grants and foodshare. The motion passed 11-4.

 

Taxes

On June 17, Democrats on the committee introduced omnibus Motion #119, which encompassed the Governor’s budget request for General Fund Taxes. The motion included several new or expanded tax credits, including a Family Caregiver Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Expenses Tax Credit and a sales and use tax exemption for diapers. It also adopted several federal tax provisions from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Overall, the motion effectively reduced the tax burden on working families by over $300 million over the biennium. The Democratic motion failed along party-lines.

The Republicans on the committee moved Motion #120, which reduced the tax rate for the third income tax bracket from 6.27% to 5.30%, and would cost the state around $2.4 billion in revenue over the biennium. The motion passed 11-4.

 

Budget Wrap Up

On June 17, Republicans moved Motion #999, incorporating all action by JFC into substitute amendments for AB 68/SB 111 (the budget bill), and recommending the bills for passage as amended to the full state legislature. The motion passed along party-lines. 

After being voted on by the full state legislature, the budget was sent to Governor Tony Evers to be signed into law. 

 

Governor Tony Evers released the following statement about his decision to sign the 2021-2023 State Budget: 

Gov. Evers Signs One of the Largest Tax Cuts in Wisconsin State History, Announces More Than $100 million in New Funding for Public Schools

Governor provides more than $2 billion in individual tax relief, delivers on campaign promise to cut taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent. 

WHITEFISH BAY — Gov. Tony Evers today signed the 2021-23 biennial budget, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 58, providing one of the largest tax cuts in Wisconsin state history and delivering on his 2018 campaign promise to cut tax taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent. Gov. Evers, former public school teacher and state superintendent of public instruction, also announced more than $100 million in new funding for public schools on top of investments included in the biennial budget.

“In many ways, this budget presents a false choice between the priorities the people this state care about and deserve,” said Gov. Evers. “But after a long eight years of politicians making decisions for all the wrong reasons, I ran to be the governor of this state and promised I would always put people before politics—that I would always try to do the right thing, that I would work to find common ground, and that I would make decisions based on what’s best for our kids and our state.

“I made a promise when I ran for governor—I promised I would cut taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent. Today, I am keeping my word,” Gov. Evers continued. “This morning, I’m providing more than $2 billion in tax relief and cutting taxes for middle-class families at a time when our economy and families need it most.” 

The tax relief comes after the last biennium, where the governor signed the 2019-21 biennial budget which, together with 2019 Wisconsin Act 10, provided an estimated $577 million in individual income tax relief through income tax rate reductions targeting lower- and middle-income earners. Earlier this year, the first bill the governor signed this biennium, 2021 Wisconsin Act 1, provided $480 million in tax relief for Wisconsin businesses and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to today, Gov. Evers had signed into law $2 billion in cumulative tax relief for Wisconsin families and businesses.

This budget alone provides $2 billion in individual income tax relief over the biennium and approximately $1 billion annually going forward and newly provides tax relief to more than 1.6 million Wisconsin taxpayers as the state’s economy and families continue to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. When combined with prior reductions, 2.4 million filers will be receiving tax relief. 

The 2021-23 biennial budget provides roughly $685 million in additional net general and categorical school aids and hits the mark for two-thirds funding in the next biennium for the first time in two decades. In addition to the investments made through the biennial budget, Gov. Evers today announced more than $100 million in federal funds for kids and schools across the state.

The additional funding announced today is made possible through the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act through the administration’s careful management of pandemic-related resources and actions to shift pandemic-related costs to funds provided under the American Rescue Plan Act. Costs for schools are eligible under the Coronavirus Relief Fund, with states being able to provide a per-pupil distribution to schools in recognition of the increased costs and challenges they faced throughout the past year and a half. Districts across the state will be able to use the funds for non-pandemic-related expenses. 

“I’ve always said what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state, so this budget began and ends where it always does for me—with education,” said Gov. Evers. “Other people playing politics hasn’t stopped me from doing what’s best for our kids before, and it’s not going to stop me today. Schools in districts across our state will be able to use these funds to support kids in the classroom, hire educators and staff, provide additional educational or mental health supports, buy art supplies, or computers, keep the lights on— whatever they need.”

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A copy of the governor’s statement is available here and a copy of his full veto message is available here. 

In the District

Updates on what's happening locally in our community can be found in this section. I'll also include updates on resources, information, and COVID-19 assistance programs.


Juneteenth Day!

Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. On Juneteenth, we celebrate African American freedom and achievement, and reflect on the history of slavery and the lives lost in the fight for equal rights. 

Milwaukee is proud to have one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country, and it was great to see many of you at the 50th Annual Northcott Neighborhood House Juneteenth Day Parade and Festival!

 

Drive-Thru Job Fair

On July 15, the City of Milwaukee Office of Workforce Development will host a north and southside Drive-Thru Job Fair for Milwaukee job seekers looking for immediate employment opportunities. The job fair will take place from 12 pm - 4 pm at the following three sites:

  • Location 1: Employ Milwaukee, Inc., 2342 N. 27th Street 

  • Location 2: Social Development Commission, 9155 N. 76th Street

  • Location 3: Basilica of St. Josaphat, 2333 S. 6th Street 

Family Movie Night 
The North Avenue/ Fond du Lac Marketplace Business Improvement will host a family movie night at Johnsons Park (1919 W Fond Du Lac Ave, Milwaukee) on Friday, July 16 at 7 PM. A flyer for the event can be found below.

 

Door-to-door Mobilization & Vaccination Effort

On June 21, the Milwaukee Health Department in partnership with Jump at the Sun Consulting, HealthyMKE, Milwaukee County, the City of Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Fire Department will launch a door-to-door mobilization and vaccination effort. The goal of the initiative is to offer Milwaukee residents the Covid vaccine, verified information, and answers to questions. To learn more about the program, click here.

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. I'll also share articles that I am quoted in when speaking to members of the media about the values of our community.

 

COVID-19 uptick in Wisconsin likely linked to delta variant
“A recent uptick in Covid-19 cases in Wisconsin likely stems from the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus and reinforces the need for unvaccinated residents to get shots.” To learn more about the variant and how to protect yourself against it, click here.

Capital City Sunday: State Budget Process 
On June 7th, I had the opportunity to speak with WKOW Capital City Sunday about the state budget process. During the interview, I continued my advocacy around funding our state's workforce development initiatives and pushed for more school funding to ensure all of our children have the opportunity to thrive. To watch the interview, click here.



GOP misses the mark on broadband and rejects funding to improve birth outcomes

Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee spent $75 million less on expanding broadband access than what Gov. Tony Evers had proposed. Moreover, their plan would require the state to borrow funds to complete the project. As a result, the state will have to pay an estimated $35 million in interest over the lifetime of the loan. In addition, the GOP chose to reject funding critical programs that would improve birth outcomes for African Americans in Wisconsin. As a member of the budget-writing committee, I was proud to stand in favor of funding these initiatives. To learn more about my remarks, click here

 

School leaders protest GOP K-12 funding plan

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. I am disheartened by JFC Republicans' decision to approve an education spending plan that only met about 10% of the governor's initial budget. To learn more, click here.

 

Housing & Homelessness State Budget Proposals 

When the Joint Finance Committee took up proposals relating to homelessness, my Democratic colleagues and I fought to secure funding for initiatives that would help people struggling to secure housing. Sadly, Republicans on the Committee did not see the need to fund these types of proposals. To learn more, click here.

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 County 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!