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Gov. Evers: 2021 is the Year of Broadband Access
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/13/2021

A somber Governor Tony Evers began his annual address to the State of Wisconsin by paying tribute to the health care workers who put their lives at risk during the pandemic, while remembering those who died as a result of COVID-19. In his State of the State speech on Tuesday evening, the governor also praised the efforts made by all citizens for making both personal and financial sacrifices over the past year.

"We found faith in the kindness of strangers who brought food and groceries to those who couldn't leave their homes, packing meals for kids so they wouldn't go hungry even if they weren't in school, sewing and donating masks for others who couldn't afford their own," he said.

He also recognized the efforts of Wisconsin farmers for continuing to put food on our tables, as well as Main Street businesses and restaurants for making the necessary changes to remain in business.

"I know folks are eager to put this virus in the past--frankly, I am, too," Evers said. "I know so many are ready to get vaccinated and get back to life as we knew it, and we are working to distribute vaccine doses as quickly and as fairly as we can."

The governor used his platform to announce two major initiatives in the coming year: fixing the unemployment distribution system in Wisconsin (which he plans to call a special session of the Legislature to address); and expand broadband access to all areas of the state's 72 counties.

"This pandemic has underscored--and in some ways, exacerbated--the digital divide that exists across our state. This pandemic has shown us firsthand that lack of access to high-speed Internet continues to be a setback for kids, families, and businesses across our state. So, tonight, I'm excited to declare 2021 the Year of Broadband Access."

Specifically, Evers is proposing nearly $200 million in his biennial budget proposal to increasing online access by improving infrastructure in rural areas. That's a substantial increase from the $54 million allocated during the past two years.

And he called on lawmakers to end the practice of gerrymandering, where the majority party uses their authority to redraw election district maps to their advantage.

Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Joan Ballweg released a statement after the address, saying Gov. Evers 'outlined many issues I hope we can continue to work collaborativelyon including investing in our rural communities, supporting our small businesses, and making sure our children receive the high-quality education they deserve.'

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