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Gov. Evers calls for mental health investment, shared revenue reform in State of the State Address | News

(WKBT) — Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is calling for common ground on issues like public education, funding for local governments, and mental health services.

Evers’ fifth State of the Address from Madison Tuesday night was actually more of a mini-budget outline, when past State of the States have been more general and theme-based.

Evers doesn’t deliver his official budget until next month, but he called for smart investments in a variety of areas.

Evers initially dove in saying Wisconsin is in the best fiscal position in it’s 175-year history, alluding to the state’s projected $6.5 billion surplus.

He dedicated a large chunk of Tuesday’s address calling for investment in mental health services, even calling 2023 “The Year of Mental Health.”

He plans to invest half a billion dollars in that effort, including almost $300 million to permanently fund his Get Kids Ahead program, which provides K-12 mental health services.

Another major plan centered on funding local government.

“I will work together on a budget provision that will send a total of up to 20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue back to our local communities for shared revenue,” Gov. Evers said.

The state’s shared revenue system has limited local governments’ ability to increase property tax levies, which is why the Coulee Region and state has been using the last resort that is public referendum.

Democratic colleague Senator Brad Pfaff said Evers’ address and last week’s bipartisan constitutional amendment on bail reform means “the partisan fever is beginning to crack.” He added that by focusing on topics that affect everyone, Evers is sending out an olive branch to his GOP counterparts.

“He put aside any divisive issues and he talked about issues like tax reform, economic development, investing in our small businesses, child care deserts, clean water…These are bipartisan common sense issues, regardless if you’re in a rural or urban area. You hear the needs to address,” said State Senator Brad Pfaff.

Meanwhile, GOP Senator Patrick Testin from the 24th District believes his party is having and will continue to have productive conversations on education, tax reform, and more, but neither side of the aisle will get everything on the wish list. 

“The governor laid out in his speech tonight a very expensive agenda that we have to be very mindful of the state dollars where again, it may not be everything that he wants because I’m a firm believer you can’t eat an apple in one bite, but we can take steps to move the state in the right direction and address some of these issues,” said State Senator Patrick Testin.

While likely not an exhaustive list, in his address Evers announced plans to invest in the following:

– expanding high speed internet access

– public education, including literacy programming, teacher recruitment, and mental health services

– fighting PFAS pollution

– increasing DAs and public defenders

– small businesses

– health care, including addressing child care deserts

Evers will deliver his budget address on Feb. 15. 

​COPYRIGHT 2023 BY NEWS 8 NOW/NEWS 8000. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED.

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