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Madeline Heim
By Madeline Heim July 23, 2021

No money in the latest state budget for lead abatement, but relief could come from feds

On the campaign trail, Gov. Tony Evers said he would expand the state's lead abatement efforts through tax credits and other programs. 

In Wisconsin, children under age 6 are considered the most vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure, according to the state Department of Health Services. In 2018, 4.5% of Wisconsin children under 6 had blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or above, the state's most recent data show

During his first years in office, Evers established a lead pollution czar to lead a statewide push to eradicate lead contamination, and state Republicans approved a smaller share of the dollars he'd asked for in his first budget  — $14 million — to fund lead abatement in homes occupied by low-income children and pregnant people who are eligible for government assistance.

Evers also proposed in his first budget using state funds to cover costs of replacing lead service lines, a provision Republicans removed. 

In his 2021-23 budget, Evers tried again to dedicate $40 million to covering costs of replacing those lines. Republicans rejected it again. 

But the governor has signaled that he will send federal stimulus money to the effort. That includes in Milwaukee, where leaders are planning to chip in American Rescue Plan Act money to continue replacing the nearly 70,000 lead service lines still left in the city. 

Though Evers has largely been unsuccessful at state-funded efforts to boost lead abatement, federal dollars could help advance the state's work. 

Because this is the final budget of Evers' term, and because the governor is instead looking to stimulus money to help address the issue, we rate this Compromise.


Our Sources

Office of Gov. Tony Evers

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke November 19, 2019

Most of Evers’ lead testing initiatives dropped from budget

Gov. Tony Evers' platform in the 2018 campaign included prioritizing lead testing across Wisconsin.

The emphasis came as the state — most notably Milwaukee — faced aging infrastructure that leaves children exposed to damaging lead. Wisconsin has more than 176,000 lead service lines that carry water to homes and more than 350,000 homes with lead paint hazards, according to the governor's office.

In Milwaukee, about 3,000 of the 25,000 children tested for lead each year have elevated levels, and a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study released in October 2019 found a connection between childhood lead exposure and gun violence in later years.

Evers' campaign pledge included four bullet points. Here's where they stand after the first of the two budgets Evers will present during this term:

Establish a comprehensive and permanent revolving loan program for lead pipe water service lines, lead-based internal plumbing and contaminated well replacements

Evers' budget proposed adding $40 million in bonding authority to the state safe drinking water loan program to allow private residents to fund lead remediation efforts on private property. This would have expanded the scope of the program that previously only provided funds for municipalities to address lead. The Republican Legislature deleted this from the budget.

Allow school districts and villages, cities, towns and counties to exceed levy limits to replace lead pipe water service lines

Evers' budget included a narrower proposal to allow only school districts to increase the amount of taxes they levy to make up for debt service or direct costs for testing and addressing lead contamination. The Republican Legislature deleted this from the budget.

Create a thorough academic and behavioral intervention program for children with elevated blood lead levels

Evers' budget did not include a proposal in this vein.

Allow individuals to claim the Historic Preservation Tax Credit for 25% of costs incurred to remove and replace windows in a historic property to remediate a lead hazard

Evers' budget did not include a proposal in this vein.

But Evers has taken other steps to address lead outside the scope of those four areas.

His budget proposed $36 million in state and federal funds for lead abatement in certain homes, grants for abatement training, public health outreach and state staff to focus on the issue. The Republican Legislature reduced the number and scope, but $14 million was still approved to fund lead abatement in homes occupied by low-income children and pregnant women eligible for government assistance. The final budget also authorized the state to award grants for residential lead abatement.

In a separate move in July 2019, Evers created a lead pollution czar by executive order, tasking that position within the state Department of Health Services with coordinating efforts to reduce exposure from paint, pipes and other sources.

So Evers' budget proposed only two of the four pledges he made on lead, and both of those were stripped out by Republican legislators. Evers did not address either issue with his veto power. But Evers has taken other substantive steps to address the lead contamination issue.

We rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Tony Evers campaign website, Protecting our Natural Resources, accessed Nov. 19, 2019

Tony Evers, veto message, 2019-21

Tony Evers, Executive Budget, 2019-21

Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Comparative Summary of Provisions, 2019 Act 9, 2019-21 State Budget, August 2019

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, UWM study finds over half of gun violence perpetrators and victims had elevated blood lead levels as children, Oct. 19, 2019

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Gov. Evers establishes lead pollution czar, joins with other Democrats to call for Great Lakes investments, July 29, 2019

Email exchange with Melissa Baldauff, spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers, Nov. 18-19, 2019

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