Today, Governor Tony Evers made his deadline, and signed into law Wisconsin’s next state budget.
The Republican-authored spending plan, which clocks in at more than $87 billion, largely made it past the governor intact. Evers used his veto power on fifty relatively minor provisions.
Despite signing the budget, Evers said at a press conference in Whitefish Bay that the spending plan has some issues.
“After eight long years of politicians making decisions for all the wrong reasons, I ran to be governor of this state and promised I would always put people before politics,” Evers told reporters. “That’s a promise I intend to keep as long as I’m governor, and it’s also among the reasons why vetoing this budget in its entirety was not an option.”
Evers says vetoing the whole budget could have risked federal financial aid to Wiscosnin’s schools.
Legislative Republicans included $128 million in additional school funding in the biennial spending plan — less than a tenth of the Governor’s initial proposal. In response, Evers announced today that he’ll be sending $100 million in additional federal funds to the state’s schools, with no strings attached.
Also in the budget is a more than two billion dollar tax cut — a major provision included by legislative Republicans.
“This morning, I’m signing one of the largest tax cuts in Wisconsin state history,” Evers said. “The bipartisan budget, along with prior reducations, not only delivers on my promise to cut taxes for middle class families by ten percent, I’m cutting middle class income tax by fifteen percent.”
Despite approving the tax cut, and applauding it as a bipartisan effort, some Republican legislators rankled at what they perceived to be Evers taking credit for the proposal. Budget Committee co-chair Mark Born, a Republican, called Evers’ statements hypocritical.
“Personally, I find it laughable that six months ago, when Governor Evers introduced his budget and proposed a more than one billion dollar tax increase, he was given the opportunity to lead and propose tax cuts and he failed,” Born said.
Evers shot back that he could have vetoed the tax cuts, and argued that his signature on the proposal makes it bipartisan.
“I signed the budget. Simple as that. I could have vetoed that. I made a promise to the taxpayers of the state that we would reduce middle-class taxes by ten percent, and we did fifteen percent. So it is a bipartisan effort.”
Looking locally, the spending plan cuts state funding for public transit in Madison and Milwaukee. The Wisconsin State Journal reported last month that the provision entails a $41 million, one-time cut for the two cities.
During budget committee proceedings, Republicans argued that the funding was unnecessary, as both cities are poised to receive millions of dollars in federal pandemic aid.
But, in a press release issued today, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway called the cuts “blatantly partisan,” noting that the provision singles out Madison and Milwaukee — two of the state’s liberal strongholds.
The Republican-controlled legislature has spent the several months whittling down the Governor’s initial budget proposal — which clocked in at about $91 billion. That initial plan included proposals to, among other things, legalize marijuana, expand medicaid and roll back portions of Act Ten.
The budget committee’s co-chairs referred to Evers’ initial proposal as a “Liberal’s Dream.”
PHOTO: Chali Pittman / WORT News