During his more than 45-minute speech, Governor Evers pointed to a projected budget surplus and the state’s low unemployment rate. Two years after the pandemic lockdown caused a skyrocketing unemployment rate of 15 percent, Evers touted the state’s current unemployment low of 2.8 percent, lower than even pre-pandemic levels.
Evers called on the GOP legislature to act on his plan to deliver one hundred and fifty dollar checks to every taxpayer, saying he would be calling a special session for lawmakers to consider the plan.
However, special sessions only require that the legislature meet to consider legislation on a topic. It would not require lawmakers to take any specific action. And Republican lawmakers have pushed back on the plan, calling it dead on arrival.
Last night, Evers also urged lawmakers to act on his plans to invest in education, emergency services, and mental health.
Evers proposed investing $30 million in additional funding to local governments to fund emergency medical services, largely in rural communities.
Also, Governor Evers promised to extend the University of Wisconsin Systems long-running tuition freeze for another year.
During his speech, Governor Evers also recognized what he called the extraordinary efforts of the Wisconsin National Guard during the pandemic, helping to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and administer testing sites. Citing the toll of these efforts, Governor Evers announced an investment of $5 million dollars into a mental health program for National Guard members.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu delivered the Republican response last night. During his rebuttal, LeMahieu took aim at Governor Evers, criticizing Evers’ response to the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and his soft on crime approach.
He even took aim at education under Evers’ administration.
Governor Evers returned to addressing lawmakers and other prominent officials in person this year, after delivering last year’s address virtually. It’s also Evers last address of his four-year term, as the race for governor heads toward us in November.
Story by Layla Ma
Photo courtesy: Governor Evers Administration