In this update:
- A Look at the Week Ahead
- Administration Updates
- Legislative Updates
- Election Updates
- Fundraising Opportunities
A Look at the Week Ahead
Governor’s Budget Address
Wednesday, February 15
Governor Tony Evers’ Budget Address
Watch here: https://wiseye.org/live/
Evers previews budget priorities
Governor Evers (D – Plymouth) recently made several announcements regarding his 2023-25 budget proposal. The budget proposals cover shared revenue, forestry/energy/environment, and veterans.
Gov. Evers on Shared Revenue
Regarding shared revenue, Gov. Evers stated, “For a decade now, our local municipalities have been forced to do more with less. They’ve had to make impossible decisions about what essential services to fund in our communities, having to choose between paying for first responders, addressing PFAS, fixing the roads, and other critical priorities. The state must fulfill our obligation to ensure our local partners can meet basic and unique community needs alike, and this historic investment will ensure that we do.” His proposal put forth the following:
- 20% of the state’s sales tax revenue will be dedicated to local communities for shared revenue
- Milwaukee County will be eligible to raise their sales tax from .5% to 1.5%
- All counties will be eligible to raise their current sales tax rates from .5% to 1%
- All municipalities with populations over 30,000 will be eligible to levy a .5% sales tax
- All sales tax increases are subject to approval through local referenda
Speaker Robin Vos’ reaction:
“Republicans have been in discussions about how to use ongoing revenues from the record surplus to help increase funding for local governments. We will not grow the size of government or write blank checks without insisting that local governments innovate and combine services to reduce costs.”
Gov. Evers on Forestry, Energy, and Environment
Regarding forestry, energy, and environmental proposals, the Governor stated, “We know protecting our environment and investing in sustainable industries is vital for conservation, protecting our quality of life, and maintaining our economy’s momentum. These investments and policies will help build a stronger, more resilient forestry industry, train Wisconsinites for in-demand jobs in conservation, sustainability, and clean energy, and improve our stewardship process.” His proposal put forth the following:
- Forestry Investments
- $395,000 annually for forest regeneration on state-owned lands, including state forests.
- $667,500 annually to provide technical and financial assistance to public landowners for reforestation, forest regeneration and management, with a focus on county forests.
- $286,200 in fiscal year 2024 and $341,600 in fiscal year 2025 to support the state nursery program
- $250,000 annually for county forest administration grants and sustainable forestry grants
- $128,300 annually to support wildlife habitat management on county forest lands.
- Energy Investments
- $5 million annually for a clean energy job training and reemployment program.
- $1 million annually under the Wisconsin Fast Forward framework for training in green jobs, including conservation and environmental career pathways.
- $2 million in fiscal year 2024 to create the Southeast Wisconsin Green Jobs Corps to encourage young adults facing barriers to employment to enter energy efficiency, conservation, and environmental sector jobs.
- Environmental Investments and Initiatives
- $589,500 annually to Terrestrial Invasive Species Protection.
- $310,000 annually for the Resilient Forests Initiative, which provides grant funding to the Wisconsin Forest Landowner and Weed Management Area programs to assist with forest management and invasive plant control on private forest land.
- $475,000 annually for urban forestry grants to help communities with forest management, education and outreach, emerging invasive species threats and emergency storm response.
- Repeal the arbitrary requirement that all projects north of Highway 64 be subject to legislative review;
- Increasing the threshold for legislative review of stewardship grants and acquisitions to $500,000
JFC Member Sen. Mary Felzkowski’s reaction:
“It’s the task of this committee to ensure taxpayer dollars are used wisely, and be a check on the spending of the executive branch. Governor Evers is asking us to surrender our duty to the people of Wisconsin and would rather provide the DNR with a rubber stamp for irresponsible spending on unnecessary acquisitions of public land — acquisitions that ultimately harm the local communities who are directly affected.”
Gov. Evers on Veterans
Regarding veterans, Governor Evers said “From creating our Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity to investing in employment opportunities, housing assistance, and increased mental health services for our veteran community, we’ve made important progress these last few years to ensure Wisconsin veterans have access to the support and resources they’ve earned and deserve. Now, we’re continuing that good work in the upcoming biennial budget by proposing continued investment in various innovative initiatives to ensure the state is equipped to meet the needs of our veteran community and help them build strong, lasting success.” His proposal put forth the following initiatives:
- Address veteran needs:
- Providing $500,000 general purpose revenue (GPR) to DVA
- Requiring DVA to explore expansion opportunities at all existing sites of the Veterans Housing and Recovery Program.
- Providing funding to DVA to create a master plan for the campus of the State Veterans Home at King to assess the current status of the campus and how the campus can serve veterans.
- Providing funding to the state veterans homes to address their ongoing needs so that each home has adequate resources to provide the best possible care to the most vulnerable veterans in Wisconsin.
- $6.7 million in non-GPR funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs to support add-ons for several nursing classifications.
- Veteran housing and employment:
- Increasing eligibility for the Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit by extending eligibility to those with a disability rating of at least 70 percent.
- Expanding eligibility for the Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit by offering the credit to persons who otherwise qualify but rent instead of own their home.
- Broadening the current disabled veteran-owned business certification within the Wisconsin Supplier Diversity Program to be a veteran-owned business certification and eliminating the fees associated with participating in the program.
- Providing $450,000 GPR annually to assist employers that hire veterans who are transitioning to civilian life.
- Creating a veteran rental assistance program funded at $1 million GPR in each fiscal year.
- Honoring veterans
- Funding one new position at each of the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemeteries
- Investing $425,000 in FY24 and $355,000 in FY25 into new equipment to serve the needs of the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemeteries.
- Providing $500,000 GPR in each year of the biennium for the University of Wisconsin Missing-in-Action Recovery and Identification Project.
- Establishing Veterans Day as a state holiday to commemorate their service. Wisconsin is the only state that does not observe Veterans Day as a state holiday.
Evers appoints Johnson DHS Secretary
Governor Evers (D – Plymouth) recently announced his appointment of Kirsten Johnson to serve as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). She will be filling the vacancy created by former Secretary Karen Timberlake’s departure. Previously, Johnson served as the health commissioner for the city of Milwaukee following her appointment in January 2021. Prior to serving the city of Milwaukee, Johnson led the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department for more than a decade as the director and health officer. Johnson also served as a health policy fellow and advisor for U.S. Congressman Ron Kind and helped develop policy for the House Committee on Ways and Means.
“Kirsten has a storied, 20-plus year career in public health and public service, including her time serving Washington and Ozaukee Counties and the city of Milwaukee during some of our state’s toughest days,” said Gov. Evers. “I have no doubt that her wealth of experience in public health, as well as her commitment to reducing disparities in health so every Wisconsinite can live their best and fullest life, will serve the Department and our state well.”
On her appointment, Johnson says, “I am excited and honored to join Gov. Evers’ administration to lead DHS, where I look forward to using my expertise and knowledge to continue this important work.”
Evers appoints Prince to Board of Regents
Governor Evers (D – Plymouth) recently announced his appointment of Dr. Joan M. Prince to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. The appointment fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Tracey Klein. Dr. Prince is a Milwaukee native and holds four degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Previously, she served as the vice chancellor of global inclusion engagement as well as an associate professor at UW-Milwaukee. In 2012, she was nominated by former President Obama to the U.N. General Assembly as a public delegate with the honorary rank of ambassador.
“Dr. Prince has an impressive and trailblazing career, including earning four degrees from UW-Milwaukee,” said Gov. Evers. “From working on her doctorate to her time as an associate professor and vice chancellor to serving at the United Nations, she will bring a wealth of experience and insights to the Board and a deep appreciation for the work of students, faculty, and staff across the System.”
On her appointment, Dr. Prince says, “After having the privilege and honor of receiving four degrees from the University of Wisconsin System, I know firsthand the level of academic excellence as well as the life-changing impact that this distinguished institution has on all that pass through its doors. It will be my honor and privilege to serve and support the facility, staff, and students on behalf of our state.”
Committee votes to audit DSPS
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee, in a 6-4 party line vote, recently voted to audit the Department of Safety and Professional Services. Republicans have criticized the agency and its former secretary Dawn Crim, who resigned in July, for professional licensing application backlogs. Former Assistant Deputy Secretary Dan Hereth has since taken over as secretary. On the necessity of the audit, Committee Co-chair Representative Rob Witte said, “We have way too many people waiting way too long for licenses. We need to understand what the issues are and get this resolved. We can’t have people that are looking for licenses to become social workers to have to work maybe two or three months before they’re approved.”
The vote comes after many Democrats warned that the audit may cause additional delays. Senators Dianne Hesselbein and Tim Carpenter and Reps. Ryan Clancy and Francesca Hong authored a letter to committee co-chairs arguing that the agency is already understaffed and lacking resources, a problem that could be exacerbated by the audit. They said DSPS had made efforts to modernize the licensing process, “without any meaningful support or assistance from this Legislature.” Senator Carpenter said he hoped the state would do more to fund the agency, citing the state’s surplus estimated to exceed $7 billion.
DSPS Assistant Deputy Secretary Jennifer Garrett told WisPolitics the agency is issuing more licenses and faster than before — more than 250,000 licenses per year on average. Garrett did not respond to questions about how many people are currently awaiting licenses and the wait time. “We want what our customers want: to issue licenses to qualified candidates as easily and efficiently as possible so that they can begin their careers, support their families, and build their lives here in Wisconsin,” Garrett said. “We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to that end, and we will continue to advocate to use more of the revenue we collect in fees to further support and improve this work.”
Breakdown of ad spending in SCOWIS race
According to a a recent tally from WisPolitics, candidates and groups have reserved more than $5 million in ads for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race. That’s already more than half of the spending needed to break the state’s record for the most expensive Supreme Court campaign, which was $9.8 million in 2020. So far, candidates have spent more than $1.5 million while groups have spent around $3.7 million. The spending includes:
- Judge Janet Protasiewicz (liberal): $1.25 million in TV ads
- Judge Jennifer Dorow (conservative): $347,000 in TV and radio ads
- Former Justice Dan Kelly (conservative) and Judge Everett Mitchell (liberal) have not yet announced paid media buys.
- Fair Courts America (conservative group supporting former Justice Kelly): $1.7 million in TV and radio ads
- A Better Wisconsin Together (liberal group opposing Judge Dorow): $852,984 in TV and online ads
- The Alliance for Reform (conservative group opposing Judge Protasiewicz): $520,000 in TV ads
- Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (conservative group opposing Judge Protasiewicz): $250,000 in TV ads
- Protect Our Families (conservative group): $195,251 in TV ads
- Conservative Action for America (conservative group supporting Judge Dorow): $149,362 in TV ads
- Justice for Wisconsin (conservative group supporting Judge Dorow): Announced a five-figure buy, details were not
Mitchell on “UpFront”
Liberal State Supreme Court candidate Everett Mitchell was on WISN’s “UpFront” this week where he answered questions about his judicial philosophy and the viability of his campaign. When asked whether he would have ads up before the Feb. 21 primary, Judge Mitchell said he would, but declined to provide additional details when asked how soon. Asked about what the disparity in fundraising with his liberal opponent Judge Janet Protasiewicz said about the support his campaign was receiving, Judge Mitchell said “It says I may not have a whole bunch of wealthy elite donors.” Pressed on whether advocates can count on him to restore access to abortion if elected, Judge Mitchell said “Part of my values have always been to support reproductive choice….I think not having reproductive choice will delegitimize our systems.”
The interview also covered diversity on the state’s highest court and how Judge Everett balance balances his faith and judicial philosophy as both a judge andpastor. The interview concluded with Judge Mitchell acknowledging he’s an underdog in the race, but sounding an optimistic tone on his prospects for victory, saying “Just because you are an underdog does not mean you are out.”
Protasiewicz releases new TV ads
Liberal Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz released three new TV ads this week. According to a press release from the Protasiewicz campaign, the first ad highlights “Judge Janet’s belief in fairness, protecting public safety, and support for reproductive freedom,” while the other teaches viewers how to pronounce her last name. The third ad is critical of conservative Supreme Courts candidates Dan Kelly and Jennifer Dorow for representing child sex offenders. The ads are part of a statewide media buy totaling more than $1.25 million in the weeks ahead of the Feb. 21 primary election.
First ad Second ad Third ad
A Better Wisconsin Together releases several ads opposing Dorow
A liberal group that says it is a state-based research and communications hub for progressives is out with one new TV ad and three digital spots opposing conservative Supreme Court candidate Jennifer Dorow. Ethics filings by A Better Wisconsin Together Political Action Fund show the group is spending $716,484 on TV and $112,500 on online ads opposing Judge Dorow. According to WisPolitics, the TV ad will run on broadcast in Green Bay and Milwaukee, and on cable in Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, and Wausau. Both sets of ads are critical of Judge Dorow’s judicial record.
TV ad Digital ad #1
Digital ad #2 Digital ad #3 Digital ad #4
Swing Left to support liberal SCOWIS candidates
Liberal grassroots organizing group Swing Left announced this week an effort to help flip the state Supreme Court’s conservative majority by supporting liberal-leaning candidates. In a press release, the group said its efforts would include: (1) fundraising for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin; (2) mobilizing volunteers who live in and near Wisconsin to participate in ongoing canvassing events; (3) hosting virtual phone banking events for out-of-state volunteers; and (4) writing letters to voters. “This election is about protecting our human rights and democracy from the real and present threat of MAGA radicals. Democrats had some major wins in Wisconsin last year, but the current conservative court is aiding and abetting the GOP extremists controlling Wisconsin’s state legislature,” said Yasmin Radjy, Swing Left’s Executive Director. Mr. Radjy said a victory for liberals would mean getting rid of gerrymandered legislative districts, securing fair presidential elections in 2024, and restoring access to abortion.
Justice for Wisconsin PAC releases radio ad
A new PAC formed to support conservative state Supreme Court candidate Jennifer Dorow released its first radio ad this week. A spokesperson for the the PAC, called Justice for Wisconsin, said the ad is part of a five-figure buy on Milwaukee radio that will run Feb. 9 through the Feb. 21 primary. The spot promotes Judge Dorow’s role in presiding over the trial of the perpetrator of the Waukesha Christmas parade massacre.
WMC and Alliance for Reform release ad opposing Protasiewicz
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) Issues Mobilization Council along with the Alliance for Reform put out a new ad this week opposing liberal Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz. The ad is critical of a sentencing decision handed down by Judge Protasiewicz to a child rapist. According to WisPolitics, WMC is spending $250,00 to run its version of the ad on TV in Green Bay while the Alliance for Reform is spending $520,00 to run its version on TV in Milwaukee. Both versions of the ad are identical other than the disclaimer at the end.
Mobley releases first TV ad
8th Senate District GOP candidate Van Mobley announced the release of his first TV ad ahead of the Feb. 21 Special Primary Election. According to a press release from the Mobley campaign, the spot is part of “an aggressive ad campaign focused on abolishing the Wisconsin state income tax.” Additional details on the spot were not available. Mr. Mobley, the current village president of Thiensville and a professor of history and economics at Concordia University Wisconsin is in a three-way primary with Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) and Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) for the GOP nomination. The winner will advance to the general election to take on lone Democratic candidate Jodi Habush Sinykin.
Barnes forms PAC
Former Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes announced this week that he has formed a new PAC to “support diverse and ground-breaking candidates around the country.” Called The Long Run PAC, Lt. Gov. Barnes said he formed the group “Because winning a race isn’t just about what you put in on race day, it’s about the support, training, and resources you put in from day one.”
According to WisPolitics, a spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Barnes said he was using funds leftover from his Senate campaign to start the PAC. The spokesperson also said that while Lt. Gov. Barnes will lead the group, he will not be in a paid position.
Upcoming Committees of Note
Wednesday, February 15
Assembly Sporting Heritage
10:00 am, 411-S
Testimony will be accepted from invited speakers only.
- Jeff Pritzl, Deer Program Specialist, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
- Tami Ryan, Deputy Administrator, Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
- Representative Rob Swearingen, State Representative of the 34th Assembly District, Expert in outdoor issues
- Gregg Walker, Publisher of “The Lakeland Times”, Deer Hunting and Wolf Management Specialist
- Kurt Justice, Member of the Conservation Congress, Member of the County Deer Advisory Council for Vilas County, Owner of “Kurt’s Island Sport Shop”
- Scott Cisney, Executive for 15 years in the outdoor sporting goods industry, over 45 years of hunting experience
- Dean Bortz, Editor of the “Wisconsin Outdoor News” Newspaper, Author at the “Wisconsin Outdoor News” Newspaper
- Ryan Rodenkirch, President, Whitetails of Wisconsin
- Scott Goetzka, Board Member, Whitetails of Wisconsin, Vice President, Wisconsin Game Preserve Association
A list of all upcoming fundraiser opportunities can be found by clicking the button below. For any questions or more information, please do not hesitate to contact your Michael Best Strategies contact.