February 16, 2021

In Depth: Governor’s 2021-23 Budget Proposal

In Depth: Governor’s 2021-23 Budget Proposal Featured Image

The governor’s Badger Bounce Back agenda includes investments in Wisconsin so we can come out of the pandemic better, including investments in education and expansion of bargaining rights for frontline workers, which includes teachers and education support professionals (Legislative Reference Bureau Analysis). Key points for educators:

Collective Bargaining for Public School Educators

  • Establishes collective bargaining rights for state and local government frontline workers and their bargaining units to provide workers with the opportunity to negotiate together. 
  • Defines frontline workers as employees with regular job duties that include interacting with members of the public or large populations, or directly involves the maintenance of public works. 
  • Requires public employers to meet at least quarterly or upon change in policies affecting wages, hours and working conditions to consult with employees. 

Health Care

  • Addresses the deteriorating quality of educator health benefits by studying the state’s own employee health insurance program as a potential solution to save districts’ resources and ensure the financial well-being of educators.

PK-12 Public School Funding

  • Restores the state’s historic two-thirds funding commitment for public schools beginning in fiscal year 2021-22.
  • Provides a significant general school aid increase of over $600 million over the biennium and more than $709 million for special education aid to achieve reimbursement rates of 45 percent in fiscal year 2021-22 and 50 percent in fiscal year 2022-23.
  • Increases per pupil aid by providing $55.8 million over the biennium to fund per pupil payments of $750 in each year for all students, and supplements these payments by $75 per pupil for each economically disadvantaged resident pupil. 
  • Proposes more than $54 million in funding for student mental health programs and supports. 
  • Increases English Language Learners aid to ensure that all Wisconsin students have the resources they need to succeed. 
  • Reaffirms a commitment to rural schools by increasing funding to sparsity aid, increasing the reimbursement rate for pupils transported over 12 miles, and increasing investment to fully fund high-cost transportation aid for school districts with relatively high transportation costs on a per pupil basis. 
  • Pauses growth in voucher programs in fiscal year 2022-23 while an extensive examination is undertaken of whether and how parity among these various programs should be established going forward. 

Technical Colleges & UW System

  • Includes additional funding of $226 million for the UW and Wisconsin Technical College systems.
  • Proposes $36 million for the Wisconsin Technical College System to support their mission of delivering quality education and training to students and ensuring that Wisconsin has the skilled workforce it needs for our economy to bounce back. 
  • Extends the tuition freeze through the end of the school year 2022-23. 
  • Expands Bucky’s Tuition Promise to attract resident low-income students by offering free tuition and expanding the program to all UW System campuses. 
  • Includes 10 percent increases each year for need-based financial aid for students attending UW System, WTCS, private non-profit and tribal colleges.


  • Proposes the largest state investment in broadband access in state history, nearly $200 million over the biennium, which includes nearly $150 million toward expanding broadband infrastructure in underserved areas and $40 million toward helping low-income Wisconsinites afford internet services. This investment is five times the amount invested in the 2013, 2015, and 2017 budgets combined. 

Equity & Opportunity

  • Creates a state diversity, inclusion and equity conference as well as workshops and seminars for HR staff and state/local government employees, and the Governor’s Wisconsin Progress Summit for local, state and tribal leaders to discuss data and initiatives regarding equity and outcomes. 
  • Creates the Governor’s Fellowship Program, an eight-week paid fellowship program for college seniors.
  • Creates a cabinet-level Chief Equity Officer and agency equity officers embedded within secretary’s offices to identify opportunities to advance equity in government operations and to determine how current government practices and policies impact communities of color and individuals with disabilities. 

Family & Medical Leave

  • Requires smaller employers to provide FMLA to their workforce, extend leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, allow FMLA for medical quarantine, and lower the threshold of hours an employee has to work to qualify for FMLA. 

Juvenile Justice System

  • Moves almost all minors out of the adult criminal justice system, changes the conditions in which someone under 18 may be waived into adult court and increase the age of delinquency to 12 from 10. Wisconsin is one of three states that automatically treats 17-year-olds as adults for criminal prosecution.
  • Revamps the state’s approach to youth prisons, moving to smaller, regional-based facilities.
  • Provides $8.9 million for a pilot program to provide county evidence-based treatment to help moderate- and high-risk youth in their communities rather than placing them outside their homes; $1.6 million for out-of-home care providers to provide intensive services; and $1 million to train staff who deal with youthful offenders.


  • Requires the Legislature to take up The People’s Maps during the redistricting process, which will be drawn not by any political party or high-paid consultants, but by the people of our state.


  • Proposes the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) work with the Department of Transportation to begin automatic voter registration, modifies certain voter identification requirements, requires UW-System and WTCS to issue ID cards that meet voter identification requirements, restores previous residency requirements to 10 days prior to an election, requires polling places to post a voter bill of rights, and requires WEC to reimburse counties and municipalities for costs incurred in the administration of special primaries and elections. 
  • Allows local officials to decide when early voting should begin, instead of limiting it to the two weeks before election day. Republicans put the early voting limits in place years ago, saying they wanted to make sure large communities don’t start early voting well before rural areas.
  • Allows clerks to count absentee ballots on the day before election day if they want, something clerks have long asked for. The plan would let clerks count absentee ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. the day before election day as long as they used automatic tabulating machines. Members of the public would be allowed to watch the process, just as they can observe voting at the polls.

Entire Budget Proposal