GOP lawmaker seeks $ 100 million for mental health programs in schools, Democrats criticize move as “political”

MADISON, Wisconsin (CBS 58) – With many students struggling with their mental health since the start of the pandemic, a Republican lawmaker proposes to give schools $ 100 million in federal coronavirus aid for mental health programs .

Proposal, presented by Rep. Jon Plumer (R-Lodi), would require Governor Tony Evers to use $ 100 million in federal funding to pay for it, a move Democrats have called “political” since they argued for additional mental health resources. for years.

Governor Evers is the only one with the power to spend billions in federal aid for COVID-19 and is likely to veto the bill as it also aims to give Republicans more control over the how that money is spent.

“The public should know how billions of dollars are spent,” Plumer said. “We know there is a need here and we also know the mental health needs will be ongoing.”

Earlier this year, Evers vetoed a Republican bill that sought to give them more power to spend federal aid in the event of a pandemic.

While both sides of the aisle support giving schools more money for mental health resources, finding a compromise on how to fund these programs has been a challenge.

Plumer’s bill would come on top of Governor Evers who already gives school districts $ 147 million in federal aid to spend on various things.

Democrats also rallied around the governor’s state budget proposal to invest $ 53.5 million in mental health programs, which Republicans rejected, and instead approved a $ 19 million increase. dollars during the biennium.

“We agree here, fund Wisconsin children’s mental health incentives absolutely, but these are not solutions [Republicans] propose, these are political games, ”said Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa).

A spokeswoman for Evers also criticized the GOP bill and urged Republicans to use state funds to make “significant investments” in student mental health.

“Governor Evers believes that what is best for our children is what is best for our state, which is why he has repeatedly proposed increased investments in supporting the mental health of students, many of whom have been removed by Republicans from the legislature, ”said Britt Cudaback, Evers. “spokesperson.” Instead of playing politics, Republicans should use readily available public resources to make the meaningful investments our children and schools deserve. “

The GOP bill would be one-time funding according to Plumer, who testified before lawmakers on the mental health committee on Tuesday.

“We know these kids are safe from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm, we have no idea what they are going through at night or on weekends,” Plumer said. “This money is needed.”

Democrats on the commission have proposed a substitution amendment to Plumer’s bill which would invest public funds in mental health programs.

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