Gov. Evers begins budget listening sessions, ahead of what may be contentious talks with Republicans
It's early in the state budget game, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has started holding listening sessions to get more ideas for the two-year state budget he will propose in February.
Evers reminded about 100 people in Kenosha Tuesday night that projections show the state will have a six billion dollar current budget surplus by the end of June, which could grow to nine billion by the end of the next budget cycle.
"All this presents unprecedented opportunities to invest in our people and our state, and create the future we want for all of us," Evers told the audience during brief introductory remarks.
Evers then sat for ten minutes apiece with groups of people discussing education, health care, the economy and environment, infrastructure and justice reform.
Sharon Pomaville is the executive director of The Sharing Center, an agency that helps the homeless and other people in need in western Kenosha County. Pomaville told Evers the state needs to assist with providing more affordable housing.
"From my perspective, about 98% of all our homeless families that live west of I-94 are homeless because they can't find an apartment. They have the money. They're working. Their children go to school there. They just really lack apartments that meet a similar level of income to a lot of our jobs in the community," Pomaville told Evers.
Evers later told WUWM that he heard the call for help on affordable housing. "At some point in time, we need to address that, and that's something WHEDA could be very helpful with," Evers said.
WHEDA is the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
In another discussion group, Tanya McLean, of Leaders of Kenosha urged more education as a way to keep young people out of prison, and more job training for inmates who will be released.
"We need to invest in things that will take care of our families, and prison is not it. That's just an afterthought of where we're putting people," McLean said.
Evers said he's tried to steer more dollars to pre-release education and training programs in state prisons.
"I mean, we have the University of Wisconsin offering credits in a lot of these institutions. But when COVID came, that really shut things down. We can do better," Evers told WUWM.
Republicans controlling the state legislature may not go for a lot of new state spending. Their emphasis seems to be using the projected surplus as a vehicle for tax cuts for the middle class and wealthy.
Evers and Lt. Gov.-elect Sara Rodriguez with hold an online budget listening session Wednesday evening.