In his fifth State of the State address as governor, Gov. Tony Evers outlined proposals to spend nearly $1.3 billion on mental health initiatives, addressing PFAS and bolstering the state’s workforce, among other things. Evers also called for a big boost in state aid to local governments and schools. In his speech, Evers noted the record state budget surplus as well as the record balance in the state’s Budget Stabilization (a/k/a “Rainy Day”) Fund.
Previewing the two-year state budget proposal he will unveil on Feb.15, Evers used his annual State of the State address to tout a proposal to make the “Get Kids Ahead” a permanent state program by investing more than $270 million to ensure every student has access to mental health services.
Details of Evers’ plan were released along with the speech and call for providing:
- Nearly $118 million per year in comprehensive school mental health aid, including funding for supports such as navigators, parent training, and the implementation of best practices.
- $18 million annually to reimburse schools for student support professionals who assist students with mental health issues, such as school counselors, school nurses, and school social workers.
- $580,000 per year for school staff training in mental health areas.
Evers also pledged his proposed budget would call for investing $20 million to increase literacy-related programming and implement evidence-based reading practices across Wisconsin, and would provide an additional $20 million to help recruit, develop, and retain teachers and student teachers, including $10 million to boost local school districts’ “grow your own” educator programs.
Specifically, Evers’ plan would provide:
- $5 million per year for “grow your own initiatives” to promote local teacher recruitment, development, and retention;
- $9.4 million for stipends to student teachers or interns;
- $2 million to provide stipends to teachers who train/oversee student teachers or interns; and
- $50,000 for stipends to school library interns.
In addition, Evers promised his budget plan would propose a pathway to get experienced educators back into the school workforce by making it easier for school districts to re-hire retired teachers and staff.
On other topics of interest, Evers pledged his budget would bolster local government finances by dedicating up to 20 percent of sales tax revenues to boost shared revenue and also criticized a GOP proposal to implement a flat state income tax as a giveaway to the wealthy. That GOP plan would cut state income tax collections—a major source of the revenues that supply money to fund state school aid—roughly in half when fully phased in by 2026.
View the governor’s speech here.