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Lawmakers host first public hearing for the state budget at UW-Whitewater

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 5:56 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 9, 2021 at 6:21 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin lawmakers held the first of four public hearings on the biennial budget, after Gov. Tony Evers’ released his plan in February.

The hearing, held at UW-Whitewater, brought people from all over the state to speak about what their priorities are. Several different advocacy groups hosted a press conference during the hearing, stressing the importance of participation in the process.

”The state budget is the most important piece of legislation that our lawmakers pass every two years,” Wisconsin Public Education Network Executive Director Heather DuBois Bourenane said.

Issues brought to the Joint Finance Committee ranged from education funding to transportation. Madison-area chef and restaurant owner, Dave Heide, spoke on behalf Main Street Alliance, a business advocacy group.

“Really trying to advocate for those people who have filtered through the cracks, and that is my hope with this budget,” Heide said.

He said federal money helped many people recover from pandemic losses. However some, like himself, do not qualify for the latest round of relief. Heide said he is hoping the $200 million Gov. Tony Evers’ wants to set aside for small business recovery in the state budget makes the cut.

Republican lawmakers said incoming federal dollars could impact how money is spent in the state budget.

“We are going to need to pay very, very close attention to that federal money and where the governor allocates that before I think we get into a real serious conversation on a lot of the budget items,” Sen. Howard Marklein, a Republican representing Spring Green, said.

Heide said he is advocating the dollar amount the governor proposed sticks, as lawmakers take the input from the public hearings and craft their own version of the biennial budget to present to the legislature.

“There’s a lot that every restaurateur and business owner is going through right now. It would be great if we could just have a little help on the budget,” he said.

The final public hearing will be virtual on April 29. July 1 is when the new budget is officially supposed to take effect. Lawmakers say the target is to get it approved and signed by then.

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