Gov. Tony Evers visited Sturgeon Bay on Tuesday to highlight initiatives in his 2023-25 biennial budget proposal to promote local housing development and affordable housing.
Evers is proposing $150 million to continue the Neighborhood Investment Fund Grant Program, which was previously supported by federal American Rescue Plan Act funding and provides grants to local and Tribal governments. He said the funding will bolster the workforce for the future, including building affordable housing, increasing transit and transportation access, expanding child care, and boosting cultural and economic opportunities in neighborhoods.
The governor was on hand with Department of Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld for a midday roundtable discussion on housing at the office of Door County United Way, which previously received up to $3.5 million from a Workforce Innovation Grant that is being used to support access to child care and build affordable housing for the local workforce.
“This $3.5 million really means a lot to all of us,” said Amy Kohnle, Door County United Way’s executive director. “We just had the groundbreaking on the new child care center [in Sevastopol near Culver’s] two weeks ago.”
Evers, who also heard from Paula Anschutz about what she went through in recent years to move cabins from the Little Sister Resort for use as seasonal housing, said he hoped a project like that could be funded as part of the $150 million being proposed in the state budget.
“I can’t believe that that couldn’t be used in these circumstances,” he said, “and get it through the Legislature.”
Evers said it can be “extraordinarily expensive” getting infrastructure to land where workforce housing could be built.
“I think some of these grant programs that we have in the budget can be helpful in that area, too,” he said.
Given that the state currently has a budget surplus, Evers said there are plenty of resources available, and now is the time to invest.
Potawatomi State Park Observation Tower
Before departing for stops in western Wisconsin, Evers fielded a few questions from members of the media who were on hand for the roundtable discussion.
When asked about his recent decision to authorize up to $500,000 for emergency repairs to the Potawatomi State Park observation tower, Evers said he still supports the provision in the proposed state budget that could fund the tower’s replacement for an estimated $6 million. The governor’s design includes a helical ramp.
“The emergency money is just to keep it from falling over,” he said. “It’s not creating the new tower. We still believe that the people with disabilities and others should be able to access that, which means that we’re sticking with our plan to – once it’s approved by the Legislature, which I think it will be – to get it fixed completely.”