Wisconsin Will Rebound

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a health crisis, it’s also an economic crisis for our state. Thanks to careful and responsible budgeting, Wisconsin is in better shape than a lot of states after the COVID-19 lock downs. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported today that our state is rebounding and we hopefully won't have to adjust our finances from the last budget. That's great news for taxpayers.

I also supported a bi-partisan bill to help our state face the pandemic, protect small businesses, and save lives.

The COVID-19 Response Bill:

• Removes the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits
• Removes co-pays for COVID-19 testing
• Expands SeniorCare to cover vaccinations
• Allows pharmacists to extend prescriptions
• Sets aside $75 million for future unexpected needs
• Prohibits health insurance coverage discrimination based on COVID-19
• Qualify Wisconsin for extra federal resources to help fund Medicaid
• Eases licensing requirements for healthcare professionals and emergency medical responders
• Provides the needed flexibilities to school districts to complete the school year online
• Asks WEDC to develop a plan to help the state's major industries to recover

I'm proud to have supported this bill because it's more than bi-partisan. The ideas in this legislation came from Republicans, Democrats, and experts affected by the pandemic and the shutdown. It is truly Wisconsin-made solutions to the crisis we all face.

I didn’t stop there. I coordinated meetings with area lawmakers and superintendents to create a better understanding of the challenges facing local schools. There is no one-size fits all plan for our schools, but these guidelines outline the priorities of getting kids back to school, back into the classrooms, and back to normalcy. I’ve talked to pediatricians who have universally expressed deep concerns with disruptions in learning, situations at home that relate to mental health and domestic violence, and further widening the achievement gap.

Back in 2010, our unemployment rate was more than nine-percent, taxes were rising, and businesses were leaving.

Thanks to our reforms and common-sense budgeting by Governor Walker and Republicans, Wisconsin is back!  We balanced the budget and reformed state government without layoffs, shutdowns, or tax hikes.

Today, we have a growing surplus, the largest rainy day fund in state history, and we made the largest real dollar investment in K-12 education.  Many states like Illinois, find themselves in deep debt because of their pension system.  Not Wisconsin. According to a report from Pew Charitable Trusts, Wisconsin has the best-funded retirement system in the nation.

With our record investments in education, we’ve delivered more than $8 billion in tax relief since 2011.

 

Strengthening Families

Strong families create a strong Wisconsin.  From helping foster kids find their permanent homes faster to making sure the cost of your childcare is affordable, I have worked to gather bipartisan support for bills that help Wisconsin’s children and families.

In the budget, we invested more than $7 million for mental health services for kids in our schools.  We also delivered a $7 million increase in children and family aids to counties to help kids who have been neglected and abused.  As the budget co-chair, I made sure Wisconsin ended the waiting list for long-term supports for disabled children ($39.5 million investment)

I authored several bills to help foster children and the families who take care of them. 

• One bill allows foster parents to access mental health information so that they can lead trauma informed lives. (Act 252)
• One bill makes sure foster kids have equal access to dental care. (Act 259)
• Another bill removes regulatory burdens for foster families. (Act 258)
• I also authored a new law to make sure kids can get mental health treatment when their parents or guardians can't be found. (Act 256)

 

Tax Relief

During my time on the budget committee, I voted to lower the tax burden in Wisconsin by $13 billion. At the same time, we made historic investments in education, protected key services like Medicaid and SeniorCare, and invested in fixing our roads. We delivered balanced budgets on time and prevented more than $1 billion in tax hikes and unaffordable spending from Governor Evers.

 

Education

I’m a former teacher. I understand the importance of education. Regardless of background or zip code, every child must have access to quality education. I’ve heard from education leaders that we need more quality teachers in our state. I’ve worked with them to attract qualified teachers to their classrooms.

In the last budget, state funding for K-12 education reached an all-time high in actual dollars at $12.2 billion!

 

Protecting Your Health Care

Wisconsin is one of the top-ranked states in the nation for health care quality. I am fighting to keep us there.

I believe we also need to ensure our seniors have access to a high quality of life. That means funding programs like Medicare, SeniorCare, and other long-term care services for the elderly of our state. In my time in the legislature, I have continually worked to ensure quality care for seniors.

As a breast cancer survivor, I know how important it is to get regular mammograms. I authored a Breast Density Notification Law that provides women with density information and empowers them to take control of their healthcare.

I’ve gone toe-to-toe for you against insurance companies. I made sure they had to cover life-saving oral chemotherapy treatments. I passed a law to reform Step-Therapy which is a series of hurdles insurance companies put between patients and doctors. It forces patients to try lower-cost alternatives, even when they are likely to fail. My law means doctors will be able to prescribe treatments that work and patients will get the prescriptions they need quicker and cheaper.

Free and charitable clinics are an important safety net for the uninsured and under-insured. I authored two laws that will improve care and increase access to free and charitable clinics in Wisconsin.

There are nearly 200,000 home care professionals, but we need more. That's why in the state budget, I fought to provide more funding to keep and retain home healthcare workers.

After my husband Bill passed away from complications due to diabetes, I have used his legacy to promote legislation to save more lives from the toll of this disease. I have passed legislation to promote organ donations, and recently passed the Diabetes Action Plan. It requires the Department of Health Services and the Employee Trust Fund to create a Diabetes Action Plan for Wisconsin. The plan will recommend ways to reduce the impact of diabetes in the state.

I believe every citizen should have access to our high-quality health care without breaking the bank. That’s why I have fought hard in the Legislature to ensure that our insurance market stays competitive so that your premiums stay low. I will continue to work hard for you to have a sustainable, healthy Wisconsin.

Serving Our Veterans

The brave men and women who are serving or have served deserve our utmost appreciation for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their family. I believe we must honor those sacrifices. One way to honor them is by ensuring our veterans are taken care of when they return home. I have worked hard to make sure there are opportunities right here at home when veterans come back. 

I supported and authored several laws that benefit our veterans.

  • Expanded educational opportunities for returning veterans by allowing them to enroll in private colleges and universities.
  • Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to create a “green alert” system. Like amber or silver alerts, the public will be notified to be on the lookout if a vulnerable veteran goes missing. (Act 175)
  • In the budget, we helped make it easier for veterans to get credit for their military experience and make sure those credits to transfer to college. (Act 59)
  • We required the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide outreach, mental health services, and support to current and former service members who have a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder. (Act 295)
  • We created the Hire Heroes program, which provides subsidized work opportunities for veterans. (Act 195)

 

Keeping You and Your Family Safe

Governments need to provide a safe environment for its citizens. I have worked to make sure that here in Wisconsin, we have the highest quality of life. I will never vote to defund the police. However, I am working to make sure our state’s police officers are better trained for their job and I supported legislation that made Wisconsin the first state in the nation to require an independent and outside investigation officer involved shootings.

My commitment to public safety has led to authoring legislation such as the state’s Sexual Predator Law, Sex Offender Registry, Internet Predator Law, and anti-drunk-driving legislation. All of these initiatives had one thing in mind: keeping you and your family safe.

I also voted to protect our schools from violence. I also authored a law to keep firearms out of the hands of violent repeat offenders. It creates criminal penalties for “straw purchasers,” individuals who purchase a firearm for someone who cannot legally own one, and “human holsters,” individuals who hold a gun for an individual who cannot legally have one. The bill also creates a four-year mandatory minimum sentence for habitual criminals who commit a crime using a firearm. (Act 145)

I made sure parents, coaches, and athletes were informed about the dangers of concussions in sports with the Sidelined for Safety Act. The bill empowers parents and student-athletes while keeping sports safe and fun.

To battle the opioid crisis in our state, I authored more than 30 bills in the HOPE Agenda, with near-unanimous support, to help people break the cycle of addiction. Part of the agenda is to keep families together when possible. That’s why I created the structure for statewide systems of family drug treatment courts. Family courts focus on treatment to keep families together when possible.

Our state is also facing a mental health crisis, especially among our youth. That’s why I doubled funding for mental health. I fought to create the Child Psychiatry Consultation Program (CPCP). This innovative program connects primary care physicians with child psychiatrists to help overcome mental health shortages and help educate doctors on how to treat kids with mental health concerns. I didn't stop there. Last session, I led the way to expand the CPCP and create a school-based pilot consultation program.