Concerned Wisconsinites packed the Union on the UW-Green Bay campus to attend and speak at the Joint Finance Committee listening session Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

Over 200 of our brothers and sisters waited their turn to address the 16 member JFC. Testimony began at 10:00am and a resident from Wausau spoke at 7:35pm.

Each speaker was allowed two minutes to express their concerns, often pleading with JFC members to listen to their concerns and accept Governor Evers provisions in the 2019-2021 budget.

Speakers and the attenders, estimated at about 350-400 people, were from all walks of life: Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, high school students, the young, the middle-aged, the elderly, the disabled—all came to be heard.

Concerns that were addressed.

I. Healthcare

A. Accept the Medicaid federal funds to expand Badger Care to cover 82,000 of our hard-working brothers and sisters who are now uninsured.

B. Increase funds for mental health services.

A father spoke about his daughter who committed suicide.

School districts, such as the Middleton School District, are conducting suicide risk assessments for students because of the increase in depression and anxiety seen in students beginning in elementary school.

C. Increase funding to address the opiod crisis and other drug and alcohol addictions.

The need for treatment instead of incarceration.

The increased need for foster care due to children being removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, opiod, meth, and other addictions within the family.

D. The caregiver crisis and the growing need for long-term care providers.

A woman shared her story about her daughter’s traumatic brain injury. The cost of 24-hour care is $624 a day.

Dementia care services and the toll it takes on the caregivers and family members. The elderly benefits program hasn’t seen a funding increase in over 20 years.

Services for the disabled that are essential to maintain quality of life and to be gainfully employed. A mother spoke of her twin sons. One son is a high achiever while the other son is severely disabled and receives out-of-home care.

Due to low pay and stress, many direct care providers who work in a variety of care-giving settings are leaving the profession.

E. The need for high-quality childcare services, adequate compensation and benefits for childcare providers.

F. High school students wearing FACT t-shirts spoke about the dangers of tobacco and vaping products that are marketed to young people. FACT is a youth tobacco prevention program for students in grades 7-12.

II. Increase funding for public schools.

School superintendents, principals, teachers, staff, school board members, and parents spoke about the need to increase funding for a wide variety of programs and services

Governor Evers’ budget increases public school funding by $1.4 billion which includes $606 million for special education to increase the reimbursement rate for special education from 25% to 60% in the 2019-2021 budget.

Governor Evers has proposed a return to the two-thirds funding formula. This is a cost sharing mechanism—two-thirds of public education is funded by the state, the other one-third is funded by the district.

Revising the Equalization Aid formula which would provide additional funding to high poverty and rural schools.

Increase sparsity aid and equalize the amount of money each child in public schools receive.

The growing shortage of teachers in Wisconsin including special education teachers and staff.

The need for predictable and sustainable funding for public schools.

Increase funding for mental health services and school breakfast programs.

III. Increase funding for the University of Wisconsin system.

Chancellors, professors, mayors, repeatedly requested additional funds for new buildings and upgrades to older buildings, mental health services, and restoring cuts to the UW system beginning in the 2011-2013 budget.

IV. Farmers spoke on a variety of issues.

A. The sorry state of Wisconsin’s roads and the high cost of repairing farm equipment that travel over “washboards.”

B. The need for additional infrastructure funding including broadband expansion.

C. Increase funding to expand the UW-Extension services and research specialists.

D. The cuts to applied science programs.

E. The need for new ideas for economic development in rural areas.

F. The need for dairy innovation hubs and research positions.

G. Promotion of dairy exports and farm products.

H. The tragic loss of family farmers and the effects on rural areas.

I. Water and soil quality and the erosion that is happening.

V. Mass incarceration

Several incarcerated people who have been released spoke about the need to close the Green Bay Correctional Institution as well as one of the correctional centers in Milwaukee.

The need for mental health services and education for those who are incarcerated and those who have been released.

VI. The need for Fair Maps and redistricting reform after the 2020 census.

The Fair Maps proposal supports a non-partisan, independent commission to redraw legislative district maps after the 2020 census. In 2011 after the 2010 census, the Republicans in control of the legislature gerrymandered the districts, with the approval of then Governor Walker, to favor the Republican Party.

VII. Other areas of concern addressed by the speakers.

A. Homelessness and hunger

B. Sexual assault

C. Tax hike on electric vehicles

D. Protecting our public lands

Restore funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund

E. Small business owners

F. Creative Economy Development Program

G. The slow rate of street replacement

H. Automatic voter registration

I. Restore the prevailing wage

Out of state companies are given contracts and people from out of state are doing the work on highway and other projects.

J. Driver’s licenses for undocumented residents

K. Water quality and replacing lead pipes