Gov. Evers dedicates State of the State to COVID victims, eyes improvements to unemployment, broadband in 2021

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers promised to make 2021 the year of broadband in his state of the state address Tuesday night.

He dedicated the speech to victims of COVID-19 before listing off priorities for the next year.

“We were going about our daily lives when a novel coronavirus hit, and we had to take urgent, necessary steps to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading,” Evers said.

The governor highlighted what the state did in response in doling out the nearly $2 billion in federal CARES Act money.

Looking at 2021, he’s eyeing recovery.

“We are reminded now that in the fight for progress and prosperity we each share responsibility,” Evers said. “And it begins with broadband.”

He declared it the year of broadband access, promising to ask the legislature for $200 million over the next two years to make it happen. He also called a special session of the legislature to update the IT systems at the department of workforce development, which have been the blame of slow payouts to unemployed Wisconsinites.

“We know that replacing this system will take years,” Evers said. “That’s why it should’ve been done sooner, but it’s also why we now have not another moment to waste. No politics, no posturing, send me the bill and let’s just get it done.”

In response Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, placed blame on Evers for what he called lack of leadership. He also criticized vaccine distribution in the state.

“Wisconsin doesn’t have a comprehensive rollout plan,” Vos said. “Few know where and when they can get a vaccine, and all of us deserve answers. With lives literally on the line, this is absolutely unacceptable.”

He highlighted the wins of Republican leadership in the legislature, citing low taxes he promised to keep bringing down.

“Republicans will fight for another conservative budget,” Vos said. “We’ll keep spending in check. We’ll continue our successful school choice programs. We’ll protect the unborn. We’ll reduce taxes even further and we will ensure that free speech still exists in the badger state moving forward.”

A couple people were honored during each proceeding.

Evers gave a short tribute to Ben Belzer, a staffer of his who passed away last summer.

The Assembly passed a resolution honoring Vos as the longest-serving Assembly Speaker in Wisconsin history.