Governor Evers Proposes Long-Needed Action on Climate Change
On Tuesday, February 16, Governor Tony Evers presented his 2021-23 State Budget Bill, SB 111. This budget bill introduces long-awaited and greatly needed environmental, energy, and climate action to Wisconsin.
Highlights from the 2021-23 State Budget Bill include:
Creating and funding an Office of Environmental Justice within the Department of Administration (DOA).
Expanding the Focus on Energy incentive program by doubling the funding from utility contributions from 1.2% to 2.4% of annual operating revenues – the first increase since 2005 - and prioritizing assistance for low income energy customers.
Providing $30 million for flooding and resilience initiatives for communities impacted by climate change.
Increasing funding for urban forestry and tree planting in urban areas.
Creating a permanent Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy within the DOA to administer energy programs such as the $4 million program for a Renewable and Clean Energy Research Grant.
Establishing a program for inclusive on-bill financing for energy efficiency improvements.
Providing $15 million in funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Requiring municipalities to plan for climate change and include the risks of climate change in their hazard mitigation plans and community health improvement assessments and plans.
Together, these actions are a great leap forward for the State of Wisconsin, and I appreciate the support and assistance to local communities through grant programs, tree-planting, efficiency and financing programs, and planning support. While climate change is a global issue, the impacts are felt locally. The damage from flooding and heat-related health impacts are all issues that we must anticipate and address locally, and they dramatically affect our infrastructure, our budgets, and our community well-being. It’s the job of each local government and of the state to protect the public interest, and addressing the catastrophic risks of climate change falls squarely within that responsibility.
The Governor’s programs are welcome additions to the work we have already been doing in Madison. We have already done robust planning around mitigating climate change and are increasing our efforts to plan for climate resilience. We have adopted the 100% Renewable Madison Report and we are working on its implementation. Through numerous onsite and offsite investments, we have already secured renewable electricity for 74% of our electric load for government operations. We’re also shifting our fleet to electric vehicles, building LEED certified municipal buildings, investing in a new bus rapid transit system, and are now requiring electric vehicle charging infrastructure in new parking developments. We are also looking at projected future storm and flooding risks and we’re planning for the steps we can take to improve our flood protections and increase the use of green infrastructure through the city.
We are doing a lot, but we also have more work to do. The Governor’s budget would help accelerate our work in incorporating climate change resilience in Madison while also helping other communities do the same. I applaud the Governor for his leadership in prioritizing climate and environmental justice in his budget. The proposed actions are essential for ensuring our communities, our people, and our state can continue to thrive through a changing climate.
If you would like to learn more and get involved, there will be six upcoming listening sessions on the 2021-23 State Budget Bill SB 111. These Badger Bounceback Live Sessions will focus on different sections of the budget and will be streamed at 6 p.m. each scheduled day on Governor Tony Evers YouTube page.