Wisconsin's debate over the next state budget is far from over, but the spending plan outlined by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has strong support from advocates of older residents.
Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, said her group was encouraged to see provisions like a tax credit for family caregivers as well as $200 million to enhance broadband internet access.
She pointed out it has become a key issue for residents 50 and older with no e-mail address, which is required for vaccination appointments.
"It's a fine example of how not having broadband has taken what should be a simple, social, important thing to do, which is to get older people vaccinated and have barriers in the way that we haven't dealt with," Dicks explained.
Meanwhile, AARP has long advocated for more support for caregivers.
Dicks acknowledged while the $500 tax credit proposed by Evers is smaller than they'd hoped for, it's a step in the right direction.
Republicans control the Legislature and have already suggested they would block several provisions. But political observers say certain pieces, such as broadband access, could get bipartisan support.
During the last budget cycle, Republicans ignored several of Ever's proposals. However, Dicks believes the impact of the pandemic might open the door to more bipartisanship.
During his address, Evers cited some of the effect as he issued pleas for support.
"People across our state and country spent the better part of the last year worried," Evers stated. "Worried about how you'll see a doctor or afford your prescriptions."
Lowering prescription drug costs is another provision supported by AARP.
Dicks said because a lot of the issues have been studied by special task forces in recent years, it shouldn't require a lengthy debate on whether to act.
"So we're in a good position to move forward and resolve some of these problems," Dicks stressed.
The state has until July first to finalize a new budget, which would cover the next two fiscal years.