Last Thursday, amid an outcry from Democrats and protest groups, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Finance Committee slashed 384 budget items proposed by the governor.
In a radio address today, Governor Tony Evers said that the Republicans’ decision to eliminate those proposals put the state’s economic recovery in jeopardy.
“Republicans have tried to stop us from confronting this pandemic every step of the way and now they’re attempting to stop us from being able to help our economy rebound from the pandemic,” Evers said in the pre-taped address.
Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the fiscal impact of trimming those proposals cost the state $2.4 billion federal dollars.
Today, the budget committee continued trimming the budget, notably striking down a proposal to increase funding for the Black Historical Society and Museum in Milwaukee.
Since the late 1990s, the state has annually allocated about $85,000 to the community nonprofit. The governor’s budget would have more than doubled that amount, to $173,000 a year.
LaTonya Johnson, a Democratic Senator from Milwaukee and the committee’s only Black member, expressed frustration that the proposal to increase funding was rejected.
“The unfortunate thing is that every single time this body gets to do the right thing, regarding our minority communities, we choose not to invest,” Johnson said.
Representative Mark Born, the Commission’s Republican co-chair, argued that there was no need for the state to increase funds to the Black Historical Society — a remark that sparked a tense exchange with Senator Johnson.
“I know sometimes when we make our statements we want to grab the most attention or we maybe exaggerate a bit, but I have a hard time with the idea that this is some sort of massive statement that speaks volumes, when what we have before us is a request no one really asked for,” Born said today. “If you want to look at Black history you can stop by third floor east and there’s a Black history display in the case.
“Oh my god,” Johnson interjected.
“You can have as many outbursts as you want Senator, I didn’t say anything that wasn’t a fact,” Born continued. “You don’t have the floor and you’re not going to sit there and debate me and be disrespectful in this committee.”
Senator Johnson later took to Twitter, posting a photo of the Black history display — which includes a single case and two posters — and referring to Born as a “racist ass.”
In a less contentious vote, the Finance Committee unanimously approved a $10 million emergency fund for Wisconsin’s veteran homes. That money will provide rainy day funds in the event of future pandemics, natural disasters or other emergencies.
The committee also approved allocating an additional 100,000 dollars annually to prevent veteran suicides.
And finally, committee members endorsed IT upgrades at the Department of Financial Institutions. Those improvements will run the state about two million dollars.
The full budget will be before the legislature later this summer. After that it will head to the governor’s desk.
(PHOTO: WORT News / Flickr)