In January of 2020, Governor Evers announced that the creation of the Office of Rural Prosperity at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The Office aimed to provide assistance to Wisconsinites navigating state programs and to convene rural communities to collaborate and generate solutions to the challenges facing rural Wisconsinites.
The governor formed a Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity to gather agricultural and rural leaders to assess challenges unique to rural communities and develop a plan to move Wisconsin forward. The governor’s Commission released a report reflecting dozens of conversations regarding the longstanding and emerging challenges in rural Wisconsin communities. This report lays the groundwork for a sustained strategy aimed at building and maintaining prosperity across rural Wisconsin.
The governor’s 21-23 budget continues to lead in addressing the challenges of rural communities by expanding access to telehealth services, making the largest investment in state history in broadband access and affordability, supporting our farmers, and delivering on his promise to fix Wisconsin’s roads. Governor Evers has taken bold steps to promote rural economic prosperity by making the largest investment in state history in expanding access to broadband internet in unserved and underserved communities.
Wisconsin farmers and rural communities are the backbone of our state and a central part of our proud agricultural history. Supporting our farmers and rural communities is vital to the success of the state as a whole. More proactive steps must be taken to support and invigorate Wisconsin’s agricultural industry, as well as our rural businesses and communities. The governor’s 2021-2023 budget proposes historic investments in Wisconsin’s agricultural economy.
According to the FCC, more than 430,000 people, who make up 25 percent of the state’s rural population, lack access to high-speed internet. The state ranks 36th nationwide in terms of accessibility in rural areas, which ranges widely across rural Wisconsin. Broadband access is an essential catalyst for economic development, rural prosperity, and community health across the state of Wisconsin. Broadband access affects healthcare, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, public safety, energy, and commerce – and serves as a gateway to education, employment opportunity, workforce readiness, essential services, telehealth, and civic participation.
Roads & Infrastructure
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 and allows for smart, targeted program increases while maintaining 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.
Right now too many Wisconsinites face barriers to accessing healthcare – and for a variety of reasons. Lack of broadband limits rural communities’ ability to access telehealth services, lack of transportation limits folks’ ability to get the care they need, and workforce shortages from mental health to caregiving create a strain across the system. The rising cost of healthcare continues to place an enormous financial burden on Wisconsin families and creates a barrier to accessing healthcare.
Education & Child Care
The governor knows what’s best for kids is best for our state, and we have to connect the dots by making sure our families have access to safe, affordable, and high-quality child care so more people can remain in our workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing structural problems in the child care industry and laid bare its critical importance to Wisconsin’s communities and economy. Throughout the pandemic, Wisconsin led by prioritizing the needs of the early care and education community and we need to continue those vital investments.
The 2019-21 biennial budget provided the largest biennial increase in funding for students with disabilities ever and the largest increase in state general equalization aid in over a decade. However, even with those historic investments, there are still significant unmet needs in school districts across the state that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s budget builds on those down payments in an effort to address the considerable challenges faced by both students and educators.
Finally, the governor’s budget proposal reflects the recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity to invest in the University of Wisconsin System and recognizes the importance of UW-Extension to rural communities.
Small Businesses & Jobs
A top priority for Governor Evers in his proposed budget is providing support to Wisconsin families, businesses, and farmers, among others as we work to recover and bounce back from the pandemic. That’s why Governor
Evers’ budget doubles down on the state’s commitment to our small businesses and our workforce with the Badger Bounceback, providing critical supports at a critical moment in our state’s history and ensure that our economy bounces back strong.