Four Wisconsin elected officials have issued a joint letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), requesting that an additional virtual public hearing be held on the 2021-23 state budget. Sens. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) and LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee), along with Reps. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and Greta Neubauer (D-Racine), issued the letter to Senate Co-chair Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Assembly Co-chair Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam).
“As you know,” the letter states, “the current public health crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant barriers to Wisconsinites accessing the in-person public hearings. This has caused a greater need for virtual options for public participation and testimony, as highlighted by 105 Wisconsin organizations in a letter sent to the committee in February.”
While a virtual hearing has been set for April 28, the letter notes that registration for the hearing opened on the morning of April 19, and points out that “there were over 200 registrations in approximately 20 minutes after the registration link went live.” A reduced number of in-person hearings, all of which are being held far from Wisconsin’s most populous urban centers, is making access particularly difficult this year. In-person hearings are only being held in Whitewater, Menomonie and Rhinelander in 2021. (In 2019 there were hearings in Janesville, Oak Creek, River Falls and Green Bay).
High public demand compelled the four elected officials to request that a second virtual meeting be scheduled. “Public input on the state budget is a vital part of the budget process,” the letter states. It adds that, “the Joint Committee on Finance has a responsibility to ensure that everyone can participate safely.”
The Republican leaders of the Legislature have signaled that they plan to scrap Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed 2021-23 budget, which contains several bold policy proposals, and replace it with their own budget plan. Evers has scheduled six Badger Bounceback Live sessions seeking public input on different aspects of the budget.