Press Release: Wisconsin’s Workforce Challenges Focus of Gov. Evers’ 2024 State of the State Address

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Wisconsin’s Workforce Challenges Focus of Gov. Evers’ 2024 State of the State Address
Governor to highlight major bipartisan accomplishments, urge legislative action to address state’s generational workforce shortages
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers tonight will deliver his 2024 State of the State address, focusing on addressing Wisconsin’s generational workforce challenges and highlighting the Evers Administration’s efforts to find long-term solutions to the state’s workforce shortages. The governor will also highlight major bipartisan accomplishments from the last year, including a historic increase in state support to local communities, an effort to keep Major League Baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin through 2050, and one of the largest investments in affordable housing in state history, among others.

Gov. Evers will underscore how these accomplishments prove progress is possible when Republicans and Democrats are willing to work together. The governor will urge legislative action to build upon last year’s work bridging partisan divides in order to address our state’s “decade-long struggle to retain, attract, and train talented workers to address our state’s workforce shortages,” including finding a long-term solution to the state’s looming child care crisis.

Excerpts from Gov. Evers’ 2024 State of the State address prepared for delivery are available below:

“I completed my fourth 72-county tour of Wisconsin this past December. I’ve been to every county at least four times, some many more. And no matter who I’m talking to or where I go—our largest communities or our smallest towns and villages—Wisconsinites tell me, ‘We need more affordable housing.’ And I agree.

“Building affordable housing in every corner of our state is critical to making sure that Wisconsin is prepared to meet the needs of a 21st-century workforce in a 21st-century economy. Since I took office, we’ve invested in building nearly 15,000 affordable housing units—nearly 2,500 last year alone—and more than 24,000 housing units total. And we’re not stopping there. This past year, we worked together to invest more than $500 million in workforce housing—one of the largest investments in our state’s history.

“We’re working every day to make sure our workforce, economy, and infrastructure are ready to meet the needs of the 21st century. Part of that is making sure kids, families, workers, farmers, and manufacturers have the infrastructure they need to get from Point A to Point B safely. When I took office, years of disinvestment had caused our roads and bridges to crumble into disrepair. So, you’re darn right we’ve been fixing the darn roads. Since 2019, we’ve improved over 7,424 miles of road and 1,780 bridges, including over 900 miles of road and over 200 bridges last year alone.

“We’ve also worked with our Minnesota and federal partners to secure over $1 billion in federal funding to support our effort to replace the Blatnik Bridge in Superior. It’s a critical economic driver for our state and supports the largest port on the Great Lakes. And I’ll tell you this: we got this done because there is no one—no one—who’s been fighting harder in Washington to bring this investment back home than Wisconsin’s senator, Tammy Baldwin.

“When I was here four years ago, I announced a three-pronged plan to address our state’s dairy crisis. I later proudly signed a bipartisan bill creating the Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports. We’re working to meet our ambitious goal of increasing the value of Wisconsin’s agricultural exports by at least 25 percent by mid-2026. So, we worked together last year to invest $2 million to help promote Wisconsin milk and dairy, meat, crop, and other products around the world.

“This past year has shown there’s much we can accomplish when we work together. Today, there are pressing issues that demand our work bridging partisan divides continues.

From my vantage point, three things are key to addressing our state’s workforce challenges: first, we must find a long-term solution to our state’s looming child care crisis; second, we must expand paid family leave; and third, we must invest in public education at every level, from early childhood to our technical colleges and universities.

“Wisconsin faces a looming child care crisis—costs to working families are skyrocketing, we don’t have enough child care providers, and the providers we have are struggling to keep the lights on. And the effects are intuitive—if a kid no longer has child care or a parent can’t afford it, someone’s going to have to stay home with them. Folks, lack of accessible, affordable child care is a statewide workforce issue.

“Without continued investments in Child Care Counts, our workforce will suffer mightily: 2,110 child care programs are projected to close. 87,000 kids could be without child care. We could lose over 4,880 child care jobs. That’s about a half a billion dollar economic impact on our state.

“[T]he emergency $170 million I directed last fall as a stopgap measure now kicks in. Republicans are officially on the clock to make the meaningful investments necessary to prevent the collapse of an industry that’s essential for maintaining our current levels of workforce participation.

“I will never expect Republicans and Democrats in this building to agree with each other—or me, for that matter—on the merits of every policy 100 percent of the time. That’s democracy. But there is no excuse for not being willing to work together on what everyone agrees is the most pressing issue facing our state.

“I’ve introduced a comprehensive workforce plan. Twice. If anyone on either side of this aisle has a better plan than mine that not only prevents the collapse of our state’s child care industry but also helps us compete against our neighboring states for talent and invests in public education at every level to prepare our kids for the future, let’s hear it. I will work with any legislator, any partner, any stakeholder who’s willing to engage in meaningful conversations on these issues to do the right thing for Wisconsin.

“In the meantime, my administration will continue to pursue every pathway and seek every avenue to address our workforce challenges without legislative action, just as we have for five years. And we continue that work here tonight.

An online version of this release is available here.