Evers’ State of the State puts an emphasis on getting more workers into better jobs

Gov. Tony Evers gives his annual State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

By Pat Kreitlow

January 24, 2024

The governor’s annual address includes proposals to help employers desperate for new hires. Evers also talked up women’s healthcare rights and announced a big buy for land conservation.

Calling 2024 the “Year of the Worker,” Gov. Tony Evers used Tuesday’s annual State of the State address to call on the Legislature to help fix significant labor shortages in Wisconsin—with the Democratic governor telling majority Republicans that workforce development involves more than tax cuts for high-income individuals and businesses.

“Asking more kids to work isn’t a workforce plan,” Evers told the joint session of senators and Assembly representatives. “Giving more big breaks to millionaires and billionaires isn’t a workforce plan. These are not serious proposals to address generational, statewide issues.”

Evers’ workforce plan—targeted, in part, to attract and retain people to take jobs in the health care, education, and state government sectors—is made up of three parts.

“First, we must find a long-term solution to our state’s looming child care crisis,” Evers said. “Second, we must expand paid family leave. And third, we must invest in public education at every level, from early childhood to our technical colleges and universities.”

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly balked at the paid leave proposal and providing more state support to Child Care Counts, a soon-to-expire, federally-funded program to help childcare providers stay in business. Evers recently reallocated some federal pandemic aid to keep the program in place until June 2025. 

“Without continued investments in Child Care Counts, our workforce will suffer mightily: 2,110 child care programs are projected to close. 87,000 kids could be without child care. We could lose over 4,880 child care jobs. That’s about a half a billion dollar economic impact on our state.”

Even as Republicans work on a bill that could lead to a 14-week abortion ban in the state, Evers took a sharp personal dig at his 2022 opponent, Tim Michels, to make the point that most Wisconsinites do not want new restrictions on women’s reproductive healthcare rights.

“Folks, Wisconsinites have been abundantly clear. As another example, Republicans’ last candidate for governor wanted to take those same freedoms—and more—away. You’ll notice he’s not here delivering the State of the State address tonight,” Evers said to loud applause from Democrats in the Assembly chamber.

The remark was part of a larger point Evers made about the likely change in legislative maps, now that a progressive majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled the current district boundaries are unconstitutional. 

“When elected officials gerrymander themselves into safe seats, they can comfortably ignore the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites,” Evers said.

Evers also chastised Republicans for their lack of support to clean up pollution from industrial chemicals known as PFAS. In what has become a familiar Republican tactic, lawmakers initially approved an overall $125 million funding plan but have since refused to approve the actual spending needed to make the plan operational. GOP lawmakers have attached conditions that could allow polluters to escape accountability and leave taxpayers footing the full bill for cleanup.

Wisconsin will soon see its largest-ever land conservation purchase after Evers announced that he had secured federal funding to get around a Republican block on buying nearly 70,000 acres of the Pelican River Forest east of Rhinelander. The land is currently owned by a Virginia-based conservation group that has been seeking to sell the land in a manner that allows it to remain undeveloped while including public access for recreation, hunting, fishing, and managed forestry.

Evers noted the state is in the best fiscal shape in its history, but the Legislature is still sitting on a record budget surplus that should be put to work in key areas.

“We needed to take responsibility for some of our state’s most important obligations,” Evers said.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.


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