Legislative Update: February 22

Governor Tony Evers will introduce his state budget Thursday, February 28. In addition to school funding, he has teased out key themes including dental care, clean water, and women’s health. He’s also on record this week saying his budget will seek more money for local roads, not big highway projects. His plan will also include measures to decriminalize possessing, manufacturing or distributing 25 grams or less of marijuana. As Evers prepares for Thursday, Republican legislators are introducing some of their own budget initiatives – including measures they say will improve community safety.

Middle-class tax plan. It is “too early to tell” if the Legislature will attempt to override Evers’ veto of the GOP middle-class tax cut plan. Evers issued his veto saying the legislation failed to provide a way to pay for the reduction and the proposal should be considered in the upcoming state budget. It would take Democratic support to get the override, as the move requires support from a two-thirds majority in each house. All Dems in both houses voted against final passage of the GOP bill. Evers plans to include his own middle class tax cut plan in his budget, which he campaigned on and voters supported.

GOP homelessness bills. Legislative Republicans have introduced a slate of proposals to combat homelessness. They would boost funds for addiction prevention, skill enhancement and housing assistance programs, as well as make $500,000 available annually to stabilize individuals and families at imminent risk of homelessness. The legislation is a product of the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness’ statewide plan to spend nearly $3.8 million annually on direct housing. The council initially unveiled its proposals in November.

Lame duck laws. Evers is seeking to block the lame duck laws curbing his power, urging a judge to grant an injunction to the laws he and others have argued are unconstitutional. Evers’ attorneys argued the legislation “unduly burdens and substantially interferes with these duties, creating barriers to execution of the law and violating separation of powers principles.” 

Assembly Education Committee. The Assembly Education Committee met this week for a briefing/update on K-12 education from the DPI, with invited speakers only.

Caring for caregivers. On the heels of Evers’ Executive Order to create a task force on caregiving, a bipartisan group of legislators is set to unveil a new caregiver tax credit. The legislation would create a $1,000 income tax credit for certain expenses a caregiver incurs when taking care of a family member.

Bills Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

  • Licensure of Dental Therapists (LRB-1947/1). This bill provides for the licensure of dental therapists, who are health care practitioners who may engage in the limited practice of dentistry, in order to increase access to dental health providers.
  • The Healthy Workplace Bill (LRB-1633/1). This bill would prohibit abusive work environments and permit a person who has been subjected to such an environment to bring a civil action.