On Tuesday, three Democrats, Rep. Amanda Stuck, Rep. Staush Gruszynski, and Sen. Dave Hansen, gathered inside the Brown County Courthouse to voice their support for Governor Tony Evers’ clean drinking water initiatives in his state budget proposal.
Different types of contamination are plaguing drinking water all over Wisconsin, and now the governor and lawmakers are looking into the ways to tackle them all.
Gov. Evers said it would take at least $70 million in borrowed money over two years to tackle the problems.
The Green Bay Water Utility is working to remove all public lead pipes in the city by the end of 2020, but homeowners still bear the burden of replacing ones inside their homes.
Some of the money in Evers’ proposal would help that.
“This is something that most homeowners just can’t afford to go and relace these lines because they’re so expensive,” Rep. Stuck said. “So that’s why we really want to make this more affordable for them to do that so they really can go ahead and replace these, and don’t have to drink lead-contaminated water.”
In Kewaunee County, residents have dangerous bacteria in their wells from cow manure seeping into the groundwater.
In Peshtigo, Tyco Fire Protection Products is making foam used by firefighters to extuingish fires, but that foam has dangerous chemicals called PFOAs and PFOEs, which has turned up in Peshtigo residents’ drinking water.
Not only that, but that same foam used by fire departments in Wisconsin ends up seeping into the ground or running off into sewers or nearby bodies of water.
Evers’ clean drinking water proposal would add more scientists and researchers to the DNR’s staff to study Wisconsin’s water pollution and find ways to combat it.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can,” Sen. Hansen said. “It’s great that we’ve got science back in the DNR, we can look at all these things and we can’t ignore it anymore because water is life.”
Local 5 sat down with Republican Sen. Andre Jacque to ask him if these initiatives in Evers’ budget proposal would receive Republican support.
Sen. Jacque said he believes clean drinking water proposals have bipartisan support.
“I absolutely think clean drinking water is a bipartisan priority, and I agree with the governor that this is something that matters to Republicans just as much as Democrats.” Sen. Jacque said. “Governor Evers and I both want to see clean drinking water just as much.”
He disagrees that the state should borrow money to fund them, and instead find room in the budget using taxpayer money they already have.
“The governor lays out some ideas in his budget that we’re certainly going to take a look at,” Sen. Jacque said. “I think again a part of the issue is the governor chooses to put it on the credit card.”
Rep. Stuck said she wants to work with Republican lawmakers on the issue, but is also skeptical.
“I’ve certainly heard Republicans talk about things like lead line replacement as a home improvement project, and so I think it’s really unfortunate that they look at clean water as a luxury and not a right,” she said.
The deadline for the state legislature to pass the budget and for Evers to sign it into law is July 1st.