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Gov. Evers calls for justice reform, more education spending in state budget address

Posted at 3:57 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 08:59:29-05

Gov. Tony Evers revealed his $91 billion state budget plan pushing for a wide range of investments including education, reforms in the justice system, and helping small businesses recover.

"After all we've been through, we aren't going to apologize for wanting more for each other - for our neighbors, for our kids, our parents and grandparents, and our state's future," Evers said in his virtual address.

Heading into the second year of the pandemic Evers described the proposal as the "Badger Bounceback" agenda.

The budget proposes establishing establish collective bargaining rights for state and local government front-line workers and their bargaining units to provide workers with the opportunity to negotiate together, rolling back parts of Act 10.

Evers has also called for the legalization and regulation of marijuana with revenues going to equity grants and rural schools.

The budget proposed investing more than $200 million to help small businesses recover from the pandemic and creating a $100 million venture capital program.

The recommendations included boosting funding for schools while restoring the requirement the state provide at least two-thirds funding of partial school revenues, continuing a tuition freeze at UW-System campuses while putting in $190 million over the next two years.

Evers also proposed overhauling the justice system while again proposing treating 17-year-olds as minors with some exceptions.

"To my friends in the legislature, our opportunity to bounce back from this crisis calls for you to summon the will to get this done. There's no time for false promises of hope and prosperity with empty words that you know full well won't match your actions," said Evers.

Republican opposition was swift following the address. In a press conference, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos noted he agreed with investing in broadband and that there were some items both parties could find common ground. However, he and other Republicans stressed the proposal has several non-starters and accused the governor of playing politics to seek re-election.

"It really requires the ability to talk to each other, and putting poison pills in the budget, which are things he clearly knows have zero chance of passing in a Republican legislature, like the repeal of Act 10 or the legalization of marijuana, really seem to be a way that looks like he's not serious about governing - he's serious about politics," said Vos.

Lawmakers will now get to work to get a budget passed by the end of June.