On January 22nd, a Joint Session of the Wisconsin State Legislature convened for the gubernatorial State of the State address.
Governor Evers delivered a 35-minute speech that was long on substance and philosophy and short on rhetoric and style - a wise approach from our perspective. Like his predecessors, the Governor used this forum to outline his policy priorities for 2020 and beyond. They are:
Agricultural Development and Farmer Assistance
The Governor proposed a three-part plan to help farmers, agribusinesses and rural communities and the elements are:
Special Session on Agricultural Development and Farmer Assistance
The Governor has called a Special Session of the Wisconsin State Legislature for state lawmakers to act on eight legislative proposals relating to agricultural development and farmer assistance. Of note, the Governor has proposed:
- Development and implementation of a Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports, which would work with the dairy industry to increase dairy exports to 20% percent of the United States milk supply by 2024;
- Additional funding for dairy processor grants to small dairy processors for plant modernization, expansion and innovation;
- Funding for UW-Extension to hire 20 county-based agriculture agents who would provide research and technical assistance on agricultural practices, business management and planning to local farmers; and
- Additional staffing for the Wisconsin Farm Center to assist farmers with farm succession planning, financial and business consulting services and transitioning to different farming practices.
Blue-Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity
The Governor has authorized the creation of a Blue-Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity and directed this ad hoc committee to:
- hold listening sessions throughout Wisconsin to learn about the issues affecting farmers, the agricultural industry, rural businesses and communities;
- gather input from stakeholders on current and future challenges facing the agricultural industry, rural businesses and communities as well as their ideas for addressing these challenges; and
- develop and submit a plan to invigorate the agricultural industry and rural businesses and communities based on the feedback received at the listening session and from stakeholders by the end of this year.
Office of Rural Prosperity
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the State of Wisconsin. The Governor has directed the WEDC to establish an Office of Rural Prosperity that would serve as a "one-stop shop" for state programs and resources available to assist rural communities, businesses and workers.
Governor Evers described his three-part plan as a starting point, not a silver bullet.
The Governor has created a Task Force on Student Debt and Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld will lead this ad hoc committee.
The Task Force has been directed to assess student debt in Wisconsin and recommend long-term strategies to reduce education-related debt, prevent abusive practices by loan companies and improve financial literacy education.
The Governor has created the People's Map Commission and directed this citizen-led panel to utilize 2020 census data to prepare new boundaries for Wisconsin congressional and legislative districts.
The Wisconsin Constitution vests the power to redraw the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts with the legislative branch of government. The redistricting plan developed by the People's Map Commission will be submitted for legislative consideration during the 2021-2022 session of the Wisconsin State Legislature.