According to the FCC, more than 430,000 people who make up 25 percent of our state’s rural population lack access to high-speed internet. Our state ranks 36th in the country for accessibility in rural areas. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored—and in some ways, exacerbated—the lack of equitable and reliable access to high-speed internet.
Gov. Evers was proud to declare 2021 the Year of Broadband Access during his State of the State address. The governor’s 2021-23 budget builds on the success of the last budget and again proposes the largest state investment in broadband access in state history, putting nearly $150 million toward expanding broadband infrastructure in underserved areas and $40 million toward helping low-income Wisconsinites afford internet services. The governor’s total investment in broadband access and affordability is roughly $200 million over the biennium, nearly quadrupling Wisconsin’s investment of $54 million in the 19-21 biennium, and five times the amount invested in the 2013, 2015, and 2017 budgets combined.
Wisconsinites need better access to reliable, high-speed internet. Whether you’re a farmer running your business, a child working on homework, or a retiree trying to access healthcare via telehealth, access to the internet is a necessity. Governor Evers knows that a strong state economy is closely linked to access to high-speed broadband in our schools, businesses, health care settings, and homes.
Access alone will not meet our goals — even in areas where broadband service is available, it may still be inadequate due to affordability, speed, or reliability concerns. Governor Evers’ 21-23 budget makes the internet more affordable by:
- Creating an Internet Assistance Program that invests $40 million in reducing costs and making internet services affordable for tens of thousands of low-income families throughout Wisconsin. • Creating a Broadband Line Extension grant program, which will reduce the cost of expensive line extensions from residences to existing broadband infrastructure. The program would be open to residences that do not have access to 25/3 Mbps service and all line extensions provided by this grant program would have to bring the residence to at least 25/3 Mbps service.
- Maintain funding for the TEACH Subsidy Program and for the TEACH Infrastructure grant program, which help reduce the cost of internet access for libraries and educational institutions across the state.
Governor Evers knows that fixing Wisconsin’s roads is vital to our economy. It’s important for businesses moving goods, people going to work, and tourists enjoying everything Wisconsin has to offer, from Milwaukee to Superior. The governor’s prior budget proposal set the standard for transportation investment. The governor’s 21-23 budget builds on this commitment allows for smart, targeted program increases while staying within historic lows in bonding for highway projects. This budget strengthens Governor Evers’ commitment to fixing our roads and enhancing our overall transportation infrastructure, while also addressing changes that our transportation infrastructure needs.
Governor Evers’ budget addresses the critical needs of the state’s highway system by including an inflationary increase to maintain the purchasing power of the state highway rehabilitation program. • The governor’s budget enumerates the I-94 East/West project to make full use of the investments that the state has made by completely rebuilding the Zoo and Marquette interchanges at the east and west entrances to the corridor. These investments will help prepare metropolitan Milwaukee highways for the next 50 years.
- Governor Evers authorized an additional $162 million for major highway projects.
Governor Evers knows that local transportation is vital to our local communities and those who live in them. The governor is proposing additional increases of 2% each year for the general transportation aids program providing support to Wisconsin cities, villages, towns, and counties. Building on the historic 10% percent increase in general transportation aids in the prior budget, the total investment in general transportation aids has never been higher.
The governor recognizes that there are many who don’t drive but ride within our communities. That is why Governor Evers made multiple investments in programs that make sure all members of our communities are able to transit whether for work, school, health appointments, or simply for leisure.
The governor’s budget proposes investing more than $30 million in programs that help build resilient roads and infrastructure, restore wetlands to prevent catastrophic flooding, support farmers when their crops are damaged, as well as an innovative first-of-its-kind program to help Wisconsinites purchase flood insurance.
Preventing Costly Flooding
In many cases, the increasing threat of flooding in our communities can be prevented with proactive efforts, smart investments, and strong partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies. For every dollar invested in preventing flooding, the state as a whole will recoup seven dollars in avoided costs.
Building Resilient Communities
By investing in programs that help communities recover and rebuild following a damaging flood, we provide the state with a greater ability to effectively respond and partner with local governments. By building resilience, Wisconsin can strengthen its ability to adapt, minimize the ongoing costs from a flooding event, and better combat the burdens of a flooding event.