A look at Gov. Evers two-year budget proposal

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) -- On Thursday night, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers delivered his spending priorities in his first state budget address to a Republican-controlled legislature.

In the next two years, Evers wants to spend just under $83.4 billion to reshape the state of Wisconsin.

"I'm Tony Evers, and I'm incredibly proud to be here as the 46th governor of Wisconsin announcing my first biennial budget for our state," said Evers.

Thursday night kicked off a months-long process of lobbying, bartering and begging between the Democratic leadership and a GOP-controlled legislature.

If it passes, his budget will affect nearly every person in the state. One topic he touched on was criminal justice reform.

"I'm investing more than $200 million in additional funds so that we can get kids out of Lincoln Hills and get them closer to home as soon as we safely and responsibly can," said Evers.

He also wants to decriminalize marijuana possession for 25 grams or less, and add more than 25 assistant district attorneys across the state.

"And that's why we're also announcing tonight that we will be 'banning the box' statewide," said Evers.

The governor also talked about spending more than $78 million to help expand broadband. He also plans to sit on a council to help fight homelessness and improve health care availability to Wisconsinites.

"It means we can expand access to substance abuse and mental health treatment, intervention, and stabilization, especially in our rural communities, for folks who are in crisis," said Evers.

As Wisconsin's former state superintendent, education is important to him, and that's why he says he wants to increase not only special education funding, but invest in K-12 and return to two-thirds funding at the state level.

"I've said all along that what's best for our kids is best for our state, and investing in our kids will yield dividends for our future," he said. Evers will also invest millions into the UW-school system, and freeze tuition for undergrads.

"We're going to make sure that, regardless of whether a kid was born in this country, if they went to a Wisconsin high school and have lived here for three years, they shouldn't have to pay more for tuition like an out-of-state student--they should be treated like any other kid from Wisconsin," said Evers.

Evers added that he wants to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission, and will work to implement automatic voter registration in the state.

Lastly, he focused on transportation, saying millions will be allocated to fixing Wisconsin roads.

"We're going to raise more than $600 million in new revenues to fix our roads, bridges, and highways and make sure that our transportation fund is sustainable for our future," he said.

Fees for titles and heavy trucks will be raised, and he's proposing a gas tax raise of $.08 a gallon.

Following Evers' speech, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald denounced the budget saying, "To me, it's a thousand-page press release and not a budget."

Tony Gonzales, who is from the north central Wisconsin area, was recognized during the Governor's budget address.

"Because of people like Tony, we're announcing tonight that undocumented folks will be eligible to receive driver's licenses and ID cards," said Evers.

Gonzalez is an activist for the Hispanic community. He tells NewsChannel 7 that he received a call from Gov. Evers' office Tuesday, asking him to come. He says he was thrilled to be invited, and feels like he's really making progress on his initiatives.