In his fifth State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers pledged to spend more than half a billion dollars in the next state budget for workforce development, mental health care and PFAS remediation.
He also called for a dramatic overhaul of the way the state pays local governments, a change that would add another half a billion dollars to their budgets each year.
It was Evers’ first State of the Union address since being re-elected in November, and will likely announce the spending priorities he will outline in his official budget proposal in February. But Evers, a Democrat, faces a GOP-led Legislature that blocked most of his policy agenda in his first term, and it’s unclear how much of that vision he will achieve.
Evers’ promises on Tuesday include $270 million to expand mental health care for Wisconsin students, $50 million in funding for small businesses and $100 million to mitigate PFAS — sometimes called “Chemicals forever“- Wisconsin Waterways.
These commitments were made possible because Everest was projected as a “historic” state surplus: $6.6 billion. In the government treasury. That’s nearly $1.7 billion in Wisconsin’s budget stabilization fund, known as the Rainy Day Fund.
“Our state has never been in better fiscal shape than it is today,” Evers said.
Evers has pledged to drive 20 percent of the state sales tax to local governments for shared revenue. That was it.”Priority“Its administration and the largest source of government aid to local municipalities.
But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, He said. That the region does not want to see a change in how municipalities are funded until local governments change their own budgets.
The issue has been particularly acute in Milwaukee, where budget shortfalls have meant drastic cuts to public services.
Also, one issue Evers didn’t address Tuesday night: abortion. He campaigned for re-election in part on a promise to help overturn the state’s 1849 abortion law, which eliminated federal abortion rights after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. While Wisconsin abortion access was a key theme of Evers’ inaugural address, he mentioned the topic only once, saying he has vetoed every anti-abortion bill proposed by the state’s Republicans.
That line drew loud applause from Democrats in the audience.
Evers: 2023 is the ‘year of mental health’
Citing the decline in mental health among young people due to the pandemic, Evers declared this year to be the “Year of Mental Health” and pledged to spend $270 million on youth mental health.
Evers pledged millions in pandemic relief funds to public school mental health services as a sustainable pandemic initiative. The state will add $270 million to that initiative, Evers said.
Evers cited the state’s Office of Children’s Mental Health’s 2022 annual report, which shows that about one-third of Wisconsin children experience sadness and hopelessness on an almost daily basis.
“The state of mental health in Wisconsin is a silent, relapsing crisis that I believe will have dire consequences for generations if we don’t address it with the urgency it needs,” Evers said.
That would be part of a total of nearly $500 million in mental health care spending, Evers said, ensuring communities across the state have access to mental health professionals.
Sales tax revenue can go to local governments, PFAS regulation.
In what he described as a bid to “find common ground,” Evers called for state sales tax revenue to be shared with local communities. He said that this would bring in about half a billion dollars a year.
Evers has suggested that he might find common ground with Republicans in his fight to regulate the synthetic chemical PFAS. PFAS, found in household products such as firefighting foam and nonstick cookware, has been found at elevated levels in Wisconsin’s groundwater. Great Lakes Fish.
But they have elected officials as well as environmental and industry groups crashed How to control the chemical, though Evers tried to make his understatement a hallmark of his administration. On Tuesday, he said the administration would take a “three-pronged” approach to testing, responding and raising awareness of PFAS contamination.
Editor’s note: This story will be updated.