Take Action: The State Budget & Wisconsin’s Waters

Apr 7, 2021 | Citizen Advocacy, Water Policy, Water Quality Task Force, Wisconsin Water Agenda

Every two years, the Wisconsin state budget is updated and approved by the legislature and Governor. The budget provides funding to agencies like the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). 

This spring is your opportunity to let state leaders know which programs you think are most important. This year’s budget spending will focus on economic recovery as we begin to come out of the global pandemic. The last year has shown us many vulnerabilities in our systems. It also underscored the importance of water for our health, recreation, and economy. 

On April 6th, voters in Marquette, Portage and Wood County declared broad bipartisan support for the right to clean water in Wisconsin. These counties, like most in Wisconsin, have faced water quality challenges for years. Leaders and county board supervisors have asked the state legislature for assistance before, but as of today, they are still waiting for these leaders to take real action. 

Our Governor and legislature spent 2019 focusing on water. It was both the Year of Clean Drinking Water and the Speaker’s Water Quality Task Force. The increased attention on water was due to the years of grassroots attention and demands to clean up our waters.

However, the proposals from the Task Force fell short and the Senate never took action on the 13 bills that were proposed. Our state must do better. 

Wisconsin’s policy leaders have even more evidence now that having clean water is a bipartisan issue that voters across the state want them to address.

Talking Points on Water for the Legislature

The first step the legislature can take is to include dedicated funding in the state budget to solve Wisconsin’s water quality problems. This includes addressing nitrates, PFAS, lead, and other pollutants that are keeping people from being able to drink their water, contaminating fish and wildlife, and polluting our rivers and lakes to the point that some cannot be used safely for recreation.

The state budget should include: 

  • $17.9 million per year ongoing for county conservation staff so they can work with farmers to address rural agriculture runoff to increase water quality. 
  • $1 million and reducing restrictions for the well compensation grant program to help replace or repair contaminated private drinking water wells for those with nitrate contamination and increases access for low-income households. 
  • $25 million and 11 new staff positions to increase testing, provide resources for remediation, collection, and clean up, and provide important protections from PFAS.
  • An Office of Environmental Justice and funding for an equity officer in each state department, bringing Wisconsin in line with other Great Lakes states which have already instituted similar measures.
  • $40 million in bonding to remove and replace more lead pipes to provide a permanent solution to the hazard of lead poisoning from drinking water.  
  • $30 million for flooding and resiliency initiatives for communities impacted by climate change. This will help build resilient roads and infrastructure, restore wetlands to prevent catastrophic flooding, and support farmers when their crops are damaged.
  • A ten year extension of the Stewardship Fund and increasing the funding for the program from the current $32 million to $70 million per year, more than a doubling of this unique land protection fund. As the Covid pandemic proved again to all of us, our outdoors are vital to us and are what makes Wisconsin so great.

Joint Finance Committee Budget Hearings 

The Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) will hold three in-person public hearings, and one virtual public hearing related to the State Budget.

Learn more about the hearings and comment process on their public comment website

Submit your budget comments in writing online by using their form.

Note: The JFC has also developed a dedicated email address for input only: [email protected].

The public hearing schedule is:

  • Friday, April 9, 2021 | UW-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI
  • Wednesday, April 21, 2021 | The Hodag Dome, Rhinelander, WI
  • Thursday, April 22, 2021 | UW-Stout, Menomonie, WI
  • Wednesday, April 28, 2021 | Virtual

In-person public hearings will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. The format will be similar to past hearings and attendees will be asked to fill out a form upon arrival to be added to the queue to testify. Venue management will monitor capacity, spacing, etc.

Pre-registration will be required for the virtual hearing.

Registration for the virtual public hearing will open on Monday, April 19, 2021 at 10:00am. The link for registration will be available on this page. Registration will close on Monday, April 26, 2021 at 5:00pm. Registrations will be taken on a first come-first served basis and registrants must be a resident of Wisconsin. 

Governor’s Budget Listening Session on Climate Change & Our Environment​​​

On April 21, 2021 at 6pm the Badger Bounceback Live Session on Climate Change & Our Environment will cover topics such as investing in stewardship and making public lands more accessible, addressing lead poisoning prevention, keeping our water clean, addressing climate change and the climate crisis, and protecting our state’s natural resources.​ See the Governor’s priorities.

Register in advance here.