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Lt. Gov. Barnes visits River Falls for budget discussion

April 13, 2019

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes speaks to press at UW-River Falls. (Theodore Tollefson / Student Voice)
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes speaks to press at UW-River Falls. (Theodore Tollefson / Student Voice)

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Wisconsin District 10 State Senator Patty Schachtner visited the University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus on Monday, March 18. The visit was to talk with students, faculty and community members on the importance of expanding healthcare coverage for the state of Wisconsin the biennial state budget for 2019-2021.

The Wisconsin State Budget for 2019-2021 was first introduced by Governor Evers in late February, and representatives from across the state have been traveling since then to talk with their constituents about the “People’s Budget.”

“It’s a very exciting time for us, it’s a very exciting time for the state,” said Lt. Governor Barnes on traveling across Wisconsin to talk about the People’s Budget.

“It was a budget that was truly put together with input from people all over Wisconsin. It’s not Tony Evers budget, it’s not my budget, it’s not the Democrats budget, this is truly a ‘People’s’ Budget. We want to make sure we get to as many places as possible. We want to make sure we are at least present to hear the concerns.”

Lt. Governor Barnes talked about how the 2019-2021 state budget would defer from the 2017-19 budget with money committed to the state’s higher education opportunities. “We are looking to make sure that we are adequately resourcing our higher education. Where as the last budget saw a $250 million cut, we are proposing  $150 million investment into our university system,” said Barnes.

“One of the biggest burdens as we all know is college affordability. Students can’t go to school even if they did everything right. That is a real problem that we face in this state, in this country, and it’s a real shame that the simple cost of school prohibits people from continuing their education, prohibits people from learning. And for people who do continue end up going to college, having the idea of exorbit student loan debt is something that causes a lot of stress as well,” said Barnes.

Out of the proposed $150 million investment in the Wisconsin 2019-2021 state budget, $17.3 million is planned to go into need based grant funding which would allow more UW System universities to accept students in need of grants or scholarships to attend a UW university. Governor Evers has also proposed in the budget a committee that will convey a study on what student loan debt reform could look like in Wisconsin in the future.

“We want to be a national leader on that issue,” said Barnes on the student loan debt reform study. “When it comes to attracting and retaining talent here I think that would put us in our rightful place, will put us where we need to be.We want Wisconsin to be a place where people look to as a location to live, work and raise a family. We haven’t been that in a while. We are one of the most moved from states in the country and it’s a trend that we are committed and dedicated to turn it around.”

Lt. Governor Barnes reiterated that the investment of $150 million into the UW System is not a only a plan based off of knowing it is the right thing to do. It’s because many people in the state of Wisconsin, whom the Lt. Governor, Governor Evers, and many other elected legislatures in Madison have visited across the state, have told their elected officials they have wanted to invest more into the state’s higher education.

“This budget, again, is about creating a Wisconsin that works for all of us,” said Barnes. “The UW System is a part of our states economy as much as it is a part of the educational system. We have to lead in research and we have to be able to lead in innovation. That hasn’t happened when you take money away from the system.”

To learn more about the states budget process for the biennial 2019-2021 budget, visit dpi.wi.gov/budget for more information. UW-River Falls will also be hosting a public hearing by the State Joint Finance Committee for feedback on the current draft on the 2019-2021 biennial on Monday, April 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Riverview Ballroom at the campus University Center.