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Eight years. That’s the total number of years that Republican lawmakers had control of all houses of power in Wisconsin. Eight years without a single obstacle in their way. Eight years to fully fund public schools. Eight years to make health care affordable and accessible. Eight years to expand broadband to every community in Wisconsin. Eight years to improve our infrastructure. Eight years to capitalize on the largest economic growth in a generation.

Where did we find ourselves after those eight years? For starters, hundreds of millions of dollars were removed from public education funding, forcing communities across the state to rely on referendums just to keep the school doors open. Former Gov. Scott Walker rejected the federal Medicaid expansion, thereby reducing access to affordable care and costing tax payers in Wisconsin approximately $1 billion over eight years. If you are reading this from a rural community, I don’t even have to tell you how rural broadband expansion has gone. And despite the years of consistent economic growth, Wisconsin lagged behind our neighbors on almost every indication of a thriving economy.

Now this is not to say that for eight years Republican legislators fell asleep on the job. Quite the contrary, they were very busy. Since 2013, Republican lawmakers have doubled down on the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Agriculture tax credit (MAC), despite repeated evidence that the vast majority of that credit goes to individuals already earning over $1 million and does little to grow manufacturing jobs in the state. For instance, in 2016 Republican lawmakers worked very hard to ensure that eleven individuals who make over $30 million dollars received an additional $22 million dollars in tax breaks from this credit. In a similar move, Republican lawmakers approved billions of dollars in tax breaks for Foxconn, a company that is already scaling back production in the Southeast corner of the state. And over the course of several years, they used tax payer dollars to enter a frivolous lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

Yes, Republican lawmakers have been very busy indeed. They have been busy passing budgets and diverting funds to prioritize the ultra-wealthy and mega-corporations at the expense of public schools, working class communities, small farms, infrastructure, and healthcare.

As I see it, a budget is a statement of values and a vision for the future of our state. Gov. Walker had eight years to make his vision very clear, and now Gov. Tony Evers has laid out his vision for Wisconsin.

After traveling the state to hear what Wisconsin residents valued most, Gov. Evers released “The People’s Budget” — an expansive vision for how we could grow our economy and ensure that prosperity reaches every community in Wisconsin. By ending the Manufacturers and Agriculture Tax Credit, scaling back the state exclusions on capital gains, and by accepting the federal Medicaid expansion, Gov. Evers frees up funds to invest in the public infrastructure and services that improve the lives of citizens across our state. Here are just a few of Gov. Evers’ budget proposals:

  • Accept the federal Medicaid expansion. By expanding Medicaid in Wisconsin, we can lower costs, insure approximately 82,000 more people, and reinvest our savings in healthcare statewide.
  • Expand rural broadband. Under Gov. Evers’ proposal, an additional $78 million would be invested in rural broadband expansion, with the goal of every business and household being connected to high speed internet by 2025.
  • Increased funding for public education. Both former Gov. Walker and Gov. Evers campaigned on returning school funding to two-thirds of the total cost, and Gov. Evers has delivered on that promise in his budget proposal. Gov. Evers also included a $600 million increase for our sorely underfunded special education programs.
  • Infrastructure upgrades. Gov. Evers is proposing the one unpopular thing that no Democrat or Republican lawmaker has the guts to do — increase the gas tax by 8 cents per gallon. After many years of kicking the can down the road on infrastructure investment, state borrowing for infrastructure projects has sky-rocketed and local governments are feeling the pinch when it comes to maintaining local infrastructure. The Evers budget courageously proposes raising an additional $600 million in revenue to finally upgrade our infrastructure.

The list goes on. The expansive Evers budget also calls for legalizing medical marijuana, creating a non-partisan redistricting process, automatic voter registration, increasing the minimum wage and wages for correctional officers, repealing the dark store loophole that allows big corporations to offset their tax burden on local property owners, addressing water quality issues and lead piping, and much, much more. This budget is visionary, it’s bold, it’s courageous, and it’s pushing Wisconsin in the right direction.

Elections have consequences. Last fall, Wisconsinites chose a bold new vision when they voted for Gov. Evers. Unlike many politicians, Evers isn’t waiting until the next election to recite yet another set of empty promises — he is delivering now. If a budget is a statement of values, then holy mackerel is it clear that Gov. Evers is bringing a whole new set of values to the Capitol.

To learn more about Governor Evers’ budget, visit http://bit.ly/evers_budget. Your local legislators will eventually vote on whether to support aspects of this budget proposal. We have several months left for lawmakers to negotiate the details of this budget, which means your legislators need to hear from you! To express your opinion to your local legislator, visit https://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/ for their complete contact information.

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Wren Keturi is a communications professional who lives in Chippewa Falls.

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