Evers touts budget plans in Beloit stop

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (at left) speaks with representatives from Head Start of Beloit and Walworth Counties during a private event Monday afternoon at the Beloit Head Start office.

BELOIT - Gov. Tony Evers pushed health care and school funding initatives included in his state budget proposal at two events in Beloit and Janesville on Monday.

Evers met with a small group of Rock County/Walworth County Head Start staff to discuss education proposals that would boost early childhood education, special education and provide increased health care coverage for Wisconsin families. Head Start Director Carol Mishler said she was glad to see Evers include $28 million in his proposal aimed at providing further care for mothers and new babies, addressing infant mortality, in the "Healthy Women, Healthy Babies" initiative.

Head Start works with 406 families in Rock and Walworth counties, according to Mishler.

"We were excited to say there is an early care and education infrastructure out there, and as Gov. Evers moves forward, to make us be more of a part of that so that it's not something separate, but that we are working together will be vital," Mishler said.

Head Start recently acquired grant funding for filling doula positions - staff who provide information, physical and emotional support and advocacy for women during and after the birth process- aid that can stretch half a decade, said Chelsea Miller, a doula who sat in on the private meeting.

"We have a unique opportunity to work with families in a very intimate way and can do so for a long time," Miller said. "That's been the biggest thing for me, affecting family health outcomes and making overall life wellness decisions."

The governor declined to take any questions from the media in Beloit, and also did not hold media availability at an earlier event in Janesville to discuss Medicaid expansion, officials confirmed.

Evers' proposal increases spending by over 10 percent from the past two-year budget, and includes a $1.2 billion tax increase. Education funding would be boosted by a $618 million in the statewide plan that was proposed by Evers as state schools superintendent, an effort that was stalled under former Gov. Scott Walker.

Currently schools are funded through per-pupil aid, something that would be set at a minimum of $3,000 and provide school districts more funding for those in low-income households compared to those who don't live in poverty.

Around $600 million in new funding would be provided for special education reimbursement costs, a 30 percent increase in 2019 and a 60 percent increase in 2020.

The spending increases and tax hikes included in the budget proposal are facing strong opposition in the GOP-controlled Legislature, with Republican leadership calling the plan a non-starter, setting up a bitter budget battle. Republican legislators have promised to write their own budget.

Mishler said it's time lawmakers put aside partisan differences.

"These families and these kids are the future and they are going to be the ones that will mean we are either going to be successful going forward or not," she said.

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