Governor Evers’ 2021-23 Budget Highlights
Posted on February 18, 2021 in Legislation, News, Transportation, Urban Forestry, Watershed Protection
On Tuesday, February 16th Governor Tony Evers released his Executive Budget. Although the budget will look a lot different when the process is complete, we are highlighting key components of Gov. Evers’ budget that we were happy to see included.
The executive budget will now go to the Joint Finance Committee of the Legislature in the next stage of the budget process. Contact your legislators to let them know you support the following initiatives!
- Extend the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Program until fiscal year 2031-32 at $70 million per year. Provide $700 million in bonding authority for the program. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has 30 years under its belt, and Gov. Evers has authorized it for another 10 more. 1000 Friends participated in the Team Knowles-Nelson campaign and sent a letter to the Governor to advocate for $70 million/year – double the programs current funding. Land acquisition through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program benefits nearly every person in the state by increasing recreational trails and park space, protecting lakes, streams and habitat, and by being a crucial strategy to fight climate change.
- Provide an additional $345,000 each year to the current Urban Forestry grant program and add $150,000 in FY 22 and an additional $500,000 in FY 23 for new tree planting grants. This funding will help adequately fund urban forestry programs around the state, and provides a needed boost of funds purely for tree planting projects. Urban and community tree planting is a necessary climate solution for Wisconsin due to the myriad of benefits trees provide (e.g. carbon uptake, energy saving, reduce stormwater infiltration rates, etc.). 1000 Friends advocated for more urban forestry grant funding as a member of the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council and in our organization’s budget recommendations.
- Provide $75 million for local multimodal transportation projects and $15 million in bonding for Local Roads to combat destruction from flooding events and Increase General Transportation Aids for both counties and municipalities. This funding could be used to fix the existing local infrastructure that is crumbling across Wisconsin. 1000 Friends continues to advocate for a fix-it-first policy and promoted this idea during our presentation to the Governor’s Task Force for Climate Change.
- Restore funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) with $1M annually. This is the first state funding for active transportation infrastructure since funding was removed from the program in 2015. This is a great start. We would like to see more funding and to prevent funding from being diverted to roads. We promoted this policy with our partners and in our budget recommendations, our presentation to Governor’s Task Force for Climate Change, and in our Blueprint 2050
- Restore the 2009 Complete Streets language. In 2015, the language was weakened and provided numerous justifications to avoid building transportation infrastructure that accounts for all users. This provision would restore Complete Streets to its original state. 1000 Friends has continued to promote complete streets through our Active Wisconsin coalition. We gave a webinar in May with the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT) and the Wisconsin Bike Fed all about the benefits of Complete Streets. We have promoted this policy during our presentation to the Governor’s Task Force for Climate Change, and in subsequent coalition letters with a statewide climate network.
- Restore eminent domain for the construction of non-motorized paths. Since 2017, communities across Wisconsin have been unable to use eminent domain for non-motorized transportation projects. This provision would restore that power and allow communities to resume building active transportation infrastructure. 1000 Friends has worked with the Paths 4 People coalition to promote restoring eminent domain for walking and biking trails. We have promoted this policy during our presentation to the Governor’s Task Force for Climate Change, and as a member of WisDOT’s Non-driver Advisory Council.
- Increase transit aids by $3.5 million annually. Transit has had a challenging year with temporarily lower ridership as people are working from home and avoiding public spaces. This additional funding, along with increases for paratransit and specialized transit will help get public transit back on its feet. While we would like to see more funding to make up for a decade of disinvestment, we appreciate the support in a challenging budget cycle. We support increasing transit aids, through the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT), our budget recommendations and during our presentation to the Governor’s Task Force for Climate Change.
- Create an exclusion to county and municipal levy limits that will allow municipalities to fund transit routes that cross boundaries if a referendum approving the agreement has been passed. This is a policy that will help fund transportation in a manner similar to Regional Transit Authorities (RTA’s). This would help plan and fund regional transit that is sorely missing in Wisconsin. It is a major priority of our Blueprint 2050 report and we promoted it as a member of WisDOT’s Non-driver Advisory Council and in our policy recommendations to the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change.
- Increase funding for transit capital improvement grant program by $10M annually. This program would allow local transit agencies to replace their aging fleet with more fuel-efficient vehicles and more quickly transition to electric buses. Transitioning to electric buses is a priority we have emphasized in the press and in our policy recommendations to the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change.
Electric Vehicles (EVs)
- Allocate $10 million of the remaining Volkswagen emissions settlement funds to be dedicated to the reestablishment of an electric vehicle charging station grant program administered by the Department of Administration and Authorize $5 million in bonding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure to allow greater use of electric vehicles throughout the state. These two budget items are critical for preparing and hastening Wisconsin’s transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Investment in EV infrastructure is a major policy recommendation in our Blueprint 2050 report and we promoted it in our letters and policy recommendations to the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change.
One Item we’re not happy to see in the budget:
- Provide $40 million in bonding to start the I-94 East-West expansion project in Milwaukee County. This would be the first in over $1 billion in funding spent to expand 3.5 miles of I-94 in Milwaukee. We continue to oppose the expansion of I-94 and are calling for a replacement in the existing footprint and using the extra funds to support local roads and transit. With our partners at the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT), we held a webinar on how highways expansion hurts multi-modal transportation, have reached out to educate legislators, and continue to educate the public on the fiscal, social, and environmental mistake that is the I-94 East-West expansion.