Governor Signs 2021-23 State Budget
Governor Tony Evers has signed the 2021-23 state budget into law with 50 changes from the proposed budget sent to him by the Republican legislative majority. The budget, signed at a Whitefish Bay elementary school, provides one of the largest tax cuts in Wisconsin state history and delivers on his promise to cut taxes for middle-class families. The governor also announced an additional $100 million in one-time federal relief funding for public schools on top of investments included in the biennial budget.
As the budget goes into effect, Wisconsin will begin the fiscal year with a nearly $2.39 billion general fund surplus – the largest in state history. This is largely credited to the state’s response to the pandemic and efforts to stabilize our economy.
“This budget starts and ends with education,” Evers said, adding that it is possible to fund education and cut taxes. “This investment is a critical step…to make sure our state recovers.”
State superintendent Dr. Jill Underly was at the budget signing and thanked the governor for providing opportunities through the budget for Wisconsin students, such as early childhood education, broadband expansion and investments to keep teachers in the profession.
Lowers Taxes: Governor Evers continues to deliver on his promise to deliver tax relief to Wisconsin families by providing $2 billion in individual income tax relief for Wisconsinites. This is in addition to $2 billion he previously secured. The 2021-23 budget cuts middle-class income taxes by 15 percent.
Supports Public Schools: The governor did his best to support students without vetoing the entire budget, which would have put in jeopardy $2.3 billion in federal emergency funds. The budget provides $685 million in additional aid to schools and for the first time in two decades and means Wisconsin will hit its two-thirds funding commitment to public schools. But schools need additional support to meet student needs coming out of the pandemic, which legislative Republicans refused to include in the budget, so the governor will invest over $100 million in federal funds.
Embraces Bipartisanship: Governor Evers has signed the first bipartisan-backed budget since 2007. Although more work needs to be done, the bipartisan support for this budget shows Governor Evers’ commitment to finding solutions to the challenges facing our state.
Invests in Broadband: The governor has already made historic investments to connect schools, communities and small businesses with high-speed broadband. His first budget included the largest broadband investment in state history, expanding access to 9,300 businesses and 150,000 homes. Governor Evers declared 2021 the Year of Broadband Access and he’s delivering on that promise by directing an additional $129 million to expand access to even more Wisconsinites.
This budget is a step in the right direction, but there remain many areas where legislative Republicans continue to play political games instead of doing what’s best for our state, including calling funding under equalization aid an increase in school investments even though it never reaches schoolhouse doors. WEAC will continue to advocate also for increased special education reimbursement rates and revenue limits, along with joining the governor on working toward equity and justice in our state.
Several WEAC priorities were included in the governor’s initial Badger Bounce Back Budget. While the Republican majority in the Legislature stripped out provisions on our power to negotiate and health benefit solutions, WEAC will continue to advocate for these items through other legislative avenues. The governor’s budget proposal included:
- Collective bargaining rights for state and local government frontline workers and their bargaining units to provide workers with the opportunity to negotiate together and require employers to meet regularly on policies affecting wages, hours and working conditions.
- Substantial state investments in our K-12 schools by restoring the two-thirds funding commitment and increases the special education aid to achieve reimbursement rates of 45 percent in the first year with an increase to 50 percent in the second, along with $54 million to programs for student mental health, English Language Learners and rural schools.
- Solution to address the deteriorating quality of educator health benefits by studying the state’s own employee health insurance program as a possible way to save districts’ resources and ensure the financial well-being of educators.