|Reflecting on this year, I am proud of the ample headway we were able to make together, toward so many legislative priorities that will benefit everyone across the district. Let me share several of my highlights of 2021 with you.
Historic Tax Cut
Every two years, state law says that Wisconsin must pass a budget, which serves as a blueprint for the state's spending over the next two years. The process begins when the Governor presents his budget proposal to the legislature, followed by the Legislative Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) making changes to that budget proposal. Governor Evers' proposal included massive spending increases of more than $8 billion over the previous budget and nearly $1.5 billion in tax and fee increases, and would have left Wisconsin with a $938 million budget deficit.
Through careful, fiscally responsible, and targeted investments into the key priorities that matter to Wisconsinites, the JFC was able to present a final budget that included a historic tax cut of $3.4 billion, letting Wisconsinites keep more of their hard-earned money. This tax cut will save the average middle class Wisconsin family $1,200 per year through a combination of income and property tax cuts. Wisconsin deserved a tax cut, and I am proud to say that Republicans delivered it. I will continue to look for ways in which we can allow you to keep more of the money you earn.
Keeping our Wisconsin roads, and especially the roads within the 18th Senate district in good condition is very important to me. Given these are a resource most of us utilize every day, it is important to keep these safe. Many have you have contacted me about transportation funding and I'm proud that we were able to deliver real results through our biennial state budget that will benefit everyone in our community.
We funded a $100 million investment for local, rural road programs and provided for a 2% annual increase in general transportation aids. This will help townships like many in our district, complete much needed road projects. We also increased funding for paratransit aids to help seniors and those with specialized transportation needs. To go even further to fund our infrastructure, More than $200 million in state general funds were transferred into the transportation fund. We also provided for the lowest level of transportation bonding in decades and saved all of you valuable money by managing to keep all major transportation projects on schedule without raising taxes or fees.
Broadband expansion has been, and continues to be a big priority of mine. in such a rural district, as ours, this affects many of you. I'm happy to report that the state budget continues to invest into the ongoing issue of reliable internet access.
Within the budget, we were able to add $125 million in state funds for broadband expansion grants. Together, with State, Federal and private sector investments in broadband, the state will see much work going on to connect our residents and businesses across the state. As co-chair of the bipartisan Legislative Tech Caucus, I promise to continue to support legislation to ensure that every Wisconsinite who wants access to high speed internet can get it.
Unemployment System Overhaul
As I drive through the district, I see signs up in countless storefronts: “help wanted” and “apply here”, among others. I have been keeping busy working on legislation that brings jobs to the state and keeps them here. I’m proud to say that there is much great work going on to get people back to work and revitalize our Wisconsin workforce.
Over the last year and a half, my office has helped over 500 people from around the district work through many headaches and problems with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to receive their unemployment. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear from individuals who were losing everything because their claim was held up in the process. As a legislative office, my staff were able to send direct inquiries to the DWD on individuals' claims.
Earlier this year, it was found that the DWD did not comply with federal regulations to issue appeal decisions in a timely manner. Wisconsin had a compliance rate of only 17.5%. The delays by Governor Evers' DWD in issuing unemployment decisions hurt the hard-working families who were struggling to make ends meet.
As a result of the horrible compliance rate at the DWD, legislative changes were necessary. Earlier this session, Wisconsin Act 4 was signed into law. Among other things, this law requires the DWD to update their IT systems so similar problems can be avoided in the future. Recently the DWD announced that they have signed a contract to fix the Wisconsin unemployment system using federal funds from the ARPA and the CARES Acts. While this is a start toward repairing our broken system, this level of incompetence in the service to the Wisconsin people is unacceptable. Wisconsinites deserve to have an unemployment safety net they can count on. Please know that my staff and I are here and available to help those who are still having issues with the unemployment system.
This brief summary is just the tip of the iceberg! We've been able to make much progress toward so many more goals and legislative priorities of mine that will benefit everyone. Thank you for continuing to reach out and voice your concerns, ideas, and thoughts on legislation. Involvement is the cornerstone of our democracy and I always appreciate hearing from so many of you. Please continue to reach out so I know how to best serve you!