Legislature Passes Budget, Evers Issues 78 Vetoes
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Legislature Passes Budget, Evers Issues 78 Vetoes.
Late last month, the State Legislature finished its deliberations on the state budget. On June 25, the State Assembly passed the comprehensive spending bill on a 60 to 39 vote with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in opposition. Debate on the bill lasted over 10 hours.
The State Senate passed the bill on June 26 on a vote of 17 to 16. Debate in the Senate lasted over 5 hours.
The budget process began in early March when Governor Evers introduced his spending proposal to the legislature and his bill was introduced to the powerful, budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance.
The committee began its work almost immediately following the bill’s introduction by receiving testimony from state agency secretaries on funding issues facing their departments. Following those hearings, the committee traveled the state throughout April to hold public hearings and gain input from Wisconsin citizens. Beginning on May 9, the committee met weekly to vote on and amend each provision in the Governor’s proposal. In total, the committee met ten times to vote on amendments before its amended bill was sent to the full legislature.
As Wisconsin’s first Democratic governor in eight years, Governor Evers introduced what many in the Republican-controlled legislature believed to be a progressive Democratic wish list of funding items. As was expected, the Republican-controlled legislature significantly changed the governor’s original proposal.
However, Wisconsin Governors enjoy some of the strongest veto powers in the nation. According to state law, the Governor may "line item veto" appropriations bills. However, his power is somewhat limited in this regard. The State Constitution says, "In approving an appropriation bill in part, the governor may not create a new word by rejecting individual letters in the words of the enrolled bill." This is to prohibit the Governor from crafting new words. Additionally, the State Constitution prohibits the Governor from creating “a new sentence by combining parts of 2 or more sentences of the enrolled bill. The Governor can, however, strike entire words, sentences, and numbers.
It was no surprise that on July 3, Governor Evers made use of his veto power. While he signed the budget bill into law, he also submitted a 33-page veto message in which he eliminated or altered 78 separate provisions. Perhaps the highest profile item of his veto alterations was a change to increase public school funding by an additional $65 million over the next two years.
Republican lawmakers were pleased to see the Governor maintained a significant middle-class tax provision. In fact, according to The Cap Times, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald call the vetoes “minimal” and believes the Republican-passed budget bill was “kept intact”.
In total, the state budget spends over $80 billion during the next two years. Governor Evers did not successfully pass much of what he wanted, including accepting federal Medicaid expansion dollars, which he told the media he will continue to fight for outside the budget process.