Picture taken from Flickr under the Creative Commons License.
Yesterday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced a compromise COVID-19 relief bill. The new proposal would cost $100 million, much less than Evers’ $541 million proposal announced in November.
That same day, Governor Evers sent a memo to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos highlighting some of the areas in Evers’ bill which he claims the two have had some agreement on. These areas include broadband infrastructure and a prescription extension. Other compromises include allowing pharmacy students to administer the COVID vaccine, and coverage of the COVID vaccine under SeniorCare.
However, Vos said in a statement that Evers was walking away from negotiations. Evers said to reporters today that the bill he submitted was a compromise, and that the Republicans would have to give up some of the things they wanted too.
“My point with the letter is to point that out,” said Evers. “That we have significant common interests, and if we’re going to let the perfect stand in the way of the good-or any type of similar analyses-we may end up with nothing.”
Vos submitted his own plan for consideration earlier this month. It would also cost $100 million, but contained some things which Democrats opposed, including provisions to send most state employees back to work by the end of January, make it more difficult for schools to continue virtual learning, and give the Joint Finance Committee, the Republican-controlled budget-writing committee, power over Wisconsin’s vaccine distribution plan.
Ultimately, Vos’ plan was not adopted, and if the Republicans do not sign on to Evers’ plan, neither will his. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, a Republican from Oostburg, did not comment on Vos’ plan when it was introduced. He said at the time that Senate Republicans do not want to spend anything beyond existing funds to fight COVID-19. One week ago, LeMahieu suggested that Evers submit his plan to the Republican-Controlled budget committee to let it authorize spending, but has not yet commented on Evers’ new compromise bill.
Yesterday, the federal government also passed its own COVID relief bill, which, among other things, sends $600 checks to most Americans and increases unemployment aid by $300 every week. In terms of state aid, the bill includes $69 billion for vaccine distribution, $22 billion for testing and tracing programs, $13 billion for nutrition assistance, $7 billion for broadband access, $45 billion for transportation services, $25 billion in rental assistance, and $82 billion in education funding. Sherrod Brown, the Democratic senator from Ohio, said that this was a good start but that more action was necessary. Other Democrats, including Evers, echoed those statements.
“The incoming president and others feel that it’s important to continue this type of investment, and we’re hoping they do, because it will not cover testing, contact tracing, all the public health things that we’re doing right now for the entire year,” said Evers. “Not even close.”
Majority Leader LeMahieu says that the senate is unlikely to convene before January.