MENOMONIE — Under Gov. Tony Evers’ two-year proposed budget, Dunn County would receive $14 million in investments for 2019-2021, with a large portion of those dollars going to Medicaid, hospitals, doctors and healthcare, two Democratic senators said Tuesday in Menomonie.
About 20 people attended a listening session hosted by Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, and Sen. Jeff Smith, D-town of Brunswick, at the Shirley Doane Senior Center in Menomonie.
Schachtner and Smith heard questions about the future of Evers’ proposed two-year state budget — and questions about the future of Dunn County’s nursing homes, mental health care and broadband internet.
Neil Koch of Menomonie, a retired hydrologist, asked the state to devote $10,000 to a pilot study in Dunn County to determine nitrate levels in household wells near septic systems.
“If it is determined wells in densely populated areas around Menomonie have high nitrate levels, then good drinking water needs to be provided by the city of Menomonie or rural water assistance needs to be established,” Koch said. “This is a major statewide health problem.”
Terry Nichols of the town of Colfax criticized the “tidal wave of referenda” that have been passed to fund Wisconsin school districts, saying the referendum funding mechanism puts unfair burden on retired seniors.
“It’s the elephant in the room,” Nichols said.
Under Evers’ proposed budget, middle-class residents would see a 10 percent income tax cut; the state would accept an expansion of federal Medicaid funding; the gas tax would be raised by 8 cents per gallon; property taxes would increase about 1.7 percent on the median-valued home; funding for K-12 schools would increase by 10 percent; and medical marijuana would be legalized.
For Schachtner, funds to fight addiction and support mental health are vital: “The people have clearly told us, it’s an issue.”
Smith called the acceptance of federal Medicaid dollars “the most important” part of Evers’ proposed budget.
The budget would expand Medicaid to about 595 Dunn County residents, according to Department of Health Services data released Tuesday.
In the Republican-controlled Legislature, Evers is seeing roadblocks. Wisconsin Republicans have criticized Evers’ proposals for expanding Medicaid, legalizing medical marijuana and freezing enrollment at private voucher schools.
Rep. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond, who represents portions of western Dunn County, said in February that the budget “seems to be filled with empty promises, unrealistic spending initiatives, and tax increases.”
Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, said in February he was “cautious” about Evers’ proposals: “With record low unemployment numbers and more people working than ever before in our history, we cannot afford to go backwards.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.