Wisconsin Public Radio

Scores of People Attend State Budget Hearing

Education funding and Medicaid expansion are top concerns of citizens.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Apr 6th, 2019 02:45 pm
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Joanne Kaus testifies at the first public hearing Friday, April 5, 2019 for Gov. Tony Evers' proposed state budget at the Pontiac Convention Center in Janesville, Wisconsin. Photo by Bridgit Bowden/WPR.

Joanne Kaus testifies at the first public hearing Friday, April 5, 2019 for Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed state budget at the Pontiac Convention Center in Janesville, Wisconsin. Photo by Bridgit Bowden/WPR.

The Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee held its first public hearing on Gov. Tony Evers‘ proposed budget Friday in Janesville. Evers’ $83.4 billion two-year spending plan has been criticized by Republicans who say it’s too expensive.

Scores of people lined up to tell the committee what they think the state should spend money on this year. Increasing funding for education, expanding Medicaid and a new tax on electronic cigarettes were among the most common things people testified about.

The governor’s budget would increase overall school funding by nearly $1.6 billion over the next two years, including a $606 million increase for special education.

Teresa Azevedo of Madison supports the increase. Her 5-year-old son Henry, who suffered seizures and a brain injury at birth, has made huge progress after working with therapists and special education teachers, she said.

“It is so important that you understand just how crucial this time is in a child’s development, it cannot be recreated later in life,” she said. “Early intervention is key, and Henry would not be where he is today without special education.”

The proposed budget would also expand Medicaid to an estimated 82,000 residents.

“We think that parents who right now are working families, who might be getting their insurance through the marketplace, they would benefit from being part of BadgerCare, they’d have the same coverage as their kids, it would create greater opportunities for them ultimately,” said Joanne Holland, chief financial officer at Access Community Health Centers.

The budget would also include a new tax on e-cigarettes equal to 71 percent of the manufacturer’s list price.

Many people spoke in favor of the new tax, including students. A group from Lodi High School spoke against e-cigarettes, citing underage classmates using vaping devices like Juul in class or in school bathrooms. Lodi student Heather Quale said she can’t go a single day without seeing Juul or other e-cigarette ads on her social media feeds.

“These products are particularly marketed to the youth by selling their product in flavors like mango, creme brulee, mint, chocolate and strawberry,” she said.

The committee will hold three more public hearings on the budget around the state this month from:

  • 10-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 at Oak Creek Community Center, 8580 S. Howell Ave., Oak Creek.
  • 10-5 p.m. Monday, April 15 at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Center, 500 Wild Rose Ave., River Falls.
  • 10-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 24 at UW-Green Bay University Union, 2430 Campus Court, Green Bay.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Education Funding, Medicaid Expansion Among Top Concerns At Public Budget Hearing was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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