WEDA Legislative Update
Earlier this week, the Republican-controlled Legislature acted on a package of 11 legislative proposals directing Gov. Tony Evers (D) on how to spend the federal money coming to Wisconsin through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The state is expected to receive $3.2 billion through ARPA.
The package of bills, which were approved by the Legislature on mostly party line votes, are expected to be vetoed by Evers, who currently does not need input from lawmakers on how to spend Wisconsin’s APRA funding. He recently announced how he plans to spend the funding.
Please find below a brief overview of the APRA-related bills passed by the Legislature that were closely followed by the WEDA Government Affairs Team:
- AB 235 (Rural Economic Development Bill): Allocates $50 million from ARPA funds to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for the following purposes:
- Additional funding for current and future WEDC economic development programs that benefit rural counties.
- $5 million in one-time funding to create a revolving loan fund grant program for rural economic development organizations. Eligible organizations would receive $250,000 to establish or expand a revolving loan fund that promotes economic development and entrepreneurial start-ups; and
- One-time grants of $50,000 to rural economic development organizations for program operations and marketing.
- AB 239 (Broadband Expansion Bill): Allocates $500 million from ARPA funds to the state’s broadband expansion grant program, with $125 million being provided per year through 2024.
- AB 234 (Tourism Industry Grant Bill): Allocates $50 Million from ARPA funds for tourism promotion and development organization grants and $25 million for amusement park and theme park businesses in Wisconsin.
- AB 233 (Small Business Assistance Grants): Allocates $200 million in ARPA funds to provide grants to small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Evers Announces $100 Million Investment in Economic Recovery Using American Rescue Plan Act Funds
Gov. Tony Evers this week announced a $100 million investment in Wisconsin’s economic recovery as part of his plan to spend the state’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds received from the federal government. According to the Governor’s office, the investment aims to ensure businesses and communities across Wisconsin have additional support and resources to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.
The investment of ARPA funds includes the following:
- A $50 million grant program to support Wisconsin’s main street businesses. The program will provide $10,000 grants to new or existing businesses that move into vacant commercial properties in Wisconsin communities.
- A $50 million equitable recovery grant program to help eliminate disparities and promote equity and inclusion as part of the state’s economic recovery efforts.
Last month, Evers said he would allocate $2.5 billion from the roughly $3.2 billion the state will receive in ARPA funds to assist Wisconsin’s economic recovery.
What’s Happening Under the Capitol Dome: WEDA Legislative Bill Tracker
Despite relatively empty, quiet halls in the State Capitol due to limited public access, legislative activity has certainly not waned and continues to ramp up as lawmakers work on reshaping Gov. Evers 2021-23 state budget bill proposal.
In addition to work on the state budget, legislators are also taking action on stand-alone, non-budget legislation, including many that impact economic development across the state. To stay up-to-date on legislation WEDA is actively lobbying on to promote economic growth, please take full advantage of the WEDA Bill Tracker tool.
Budget Committee Announces Virtual Public Hearing Registration Information
The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is charged with reshaping the state budget bill before it’s passed and sent back to the governor, recently announced registration details for a virtual public hearing on the budget bill scheduled for April 28, 2021.
Registration for the virtual public hearing will open on Monday, April 19, 2021 at 10:00 A.M. The link for registration will be available on the following website:
Registration, which will close on Monday, April 26, 2021 at 5:00 P.M., will be taken on a first come, first served basis. Registrants must be a resident of Wisconsin.
Unlike past legislative sessions, WEDA is not organizing members to testify at budget sessions, but instead will rely on direct lobbying and other grassroots advocacy strategies to help achieve our budget priorities, which include:
- Funding for broadband expansion in unserved areas of the state.
- Incentives to promote the development of much needed workforce housing in Wisconsin.
- Investment in statewide talent attraction efforts.
- Preservation of the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax credit, which Gov Evers has proposed cutting for manufacturers.
- Support state funding for local economic development efforts.
However, members who are interested in testifying at the virtual budget hearing are encouraged to do so and will receive support from the WEDA Government Affairs Team.
For individuals who cannot attend the public hearings, but wish to comment on the budget bill, the following online portal is available for the public to provide input on the bill: www.legis.wisconsin.gov/topics/budgetcomments.
If you have any questions on the state budget bill, need more information, or would like assistance in testifying before the Joint Finance Committee, please contact the WEDA office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jagler; Behnke Win Special Legislative Elections
Last week’s April 6 spring election had two special legislative races on the ballot to fill vacancies in Wisconsin’s 13th Senate District and 89th Assembly District.
Current State Representative John Jagler (R-Watertown) won his bid for the 13th Senate District seat to replace former Senator Scott Fitzgerald who was elected to Congress last fall. Jagler captured 51 percent of the vote, while his Democrat challenger, Melissa Winker received 44% of the vote.
Once Jagler is sworn into office in his new role as state senator, Republicans will hold a 21-12 majority in the Senate.
In the 89th Assembly District special election, Republican Elijah Behnke easily defeated Democrat Karl Jaeger, capturing 63 percent of the vote. Behnke will fill the seat vacated by Republican John Nygren, who resigned from office in December 2020.
With Behnke’s victory, Republicans will hold a 61-38 seat majority in the Assembly.