MADISON (WKOW) — Governor Tony Evers’ two-year spending plan for the state includes expanding health care coverage for low-income individuals, raising the gas tax for transportation needs, and revamping the school funding formula.
Gov. Evers revealed his budget plans for the next two years to the entire legislature Thursday evening.
His plans for the state also include repealing almost all of the lame-duck laws that reduce powers of the governor and attorney general, automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds and increasing the state’s minimum wage.
Drivers won’t see any increase for their annual registration fee but a gas tax will increase to 8 cents/gallon. The governor’s office estimates drivers will see a $3 increase a month which will eventually be diminished by repealing the state’s minimum markup law. The markup law prohibits selling items of merchandise below the actual cost.
Heavy trucks will see an increase in registration fees and title fees on original or transfer vehicle titles. Both combined would rise $72 over the next two years.
New investments include $320 million to fund state highway projects to build and resurface across the state.
For the first time in almost 20 years, the governor will reduce borrowing money to fix transportation needs. Evers budget did not include any proposals to implement tolling, an idea his Transportation Task Force considered.
Evers budget would expand health care coverage for an additional 82,000 low-income Wisconsinites by expanding Medicaid to 138% of the federal poverty level, which, in 2019, was $34,638 annual for a family of four.
The spending plan would also reduce the cost of prescription drugs. The governor recommended importing generic and off-brand drugs from abroad into the state. In order to obtain these, the drugs must maintain federal safety requirements. A $43 million investment would expand dental access under BadgerCare Plus and the Medicaid program.
Workers making minimum wage would earn $8.25 an hour by January of 2020 and $9.00 by 2021 in Evers budget. Wisconsin’s current minimum wage is $7.25 which has not seen an increase since 2009.
The budget would also create a task force to further study other options on how to progress to $15/hour. The task force would consist of five gubernatorial appointees and others made by the legislatures four legislative leaders; Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and Minority Leader Gordon Hintz.
State workers would also see a pay raise about 2% across the board each year.
Governor Evers is sticking to his campaign promise to increase K-12 education by $1.4 billion over the next two years. Each school district would be guaranteed a minimum of $3,000 for every student. He also asks for $606 million over the biennium to reimburse 30% of special education costs in 2019-2020 and 60% by 2020-2021.
His plan also caps how many students can use public money to pay for private school tuition. Today, parents can apply for a voucher to help pay for private school tuition. Evers’ proposal would freeze the number of vouchers available in 2021. Evers argues the state is spending too much money on a program which generally provides low-income families with tuition assistance.
To improve college affordability Evers requested to continue a two-year tuition freeze for University of Wisconsin students and undocumented residents. The UW System requested $82.5 million to increase overall funding.
RIGHT TO WORK LAWS
The budget reverses major changes implemented for eight years under former governor Scott Walker regarding collective bargaining. However, it wouldn’t overturn Act 10. Evers would eliminate the right to work law, which prohibits labor unions and employees from entering private agreements regarding the use of unionized workers. This change would permit employers to require union membership or affiliation dues.
You could see your property taxes increase on average about $50 each year over the biennium on a median-valued home, about $173,646.
The budget would require the Department of Corrections to transfer juveniles from Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Youth Prisons as soon as possible once smaller facilities are built. Evers has also requested to delay the closure of both facilities indefinitely until lawmakers come up with a solution.
REPEAL LAME DUCK LAWS
The governor will attempt to repeal almost all of the lame-duck laws passed in December by Republicans in his budget. Those include reversing laws that prohibit the governor and attorney general’s authority to drop out of lawsuits and hire their own attorneys.
AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION
When you turn 18 in Wisconsin you will automatically be registered to vote under the governor’s budget. The budget would require the Election Commission to work with the Department of Transportation to facilitate an automatic voter registration system and implement a process to make 18-year-olds eligible as quickly as possible.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA & DECRIMINALIZING CANNABIS
Legalizing medical marijuana, included in Evers budget, would allow an individual with a debilitating medical condition to possess up to three ounces or 12 live plants. The program would be regulated by the Department of Health Services (DHS) and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
Under the direction of a medical professional, a person with medical conditions who would apply include cancer, glaucoma, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, HIV, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, nail-patella syndrome, Ehlers-danlos syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures and other conditions as determined by DHS.
Marijuana would also be decriminalized for anyone possessing 25 grams or less. If caught, you would not be punished or given a ticket.