BURLINGTON— The Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate plan to square off with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers as the Joint Finance Committee wraps up its recommendations for the proposed 2019-21 biennial budget.
The question of when the budget will be signed is anyone’s guess.
The budget needs to pass both the Assembly and Senate before it gets to Evers, who is armed with one of the most powerful gubernatorial veto pens in the nation. Wisconsin law allows the governor to veto not just entire items but also individual words in the text of bills.
Evers was at the Burlington Public Library on Wednesday reading to children. But while there, he also commented on the budget process and the Foxconn development in Mount Pleasant.
On vetoing all or parts of the budget, Evers said it is too early to say what he plans to do.
“I have the option to veto the entire budget or just parts of it or none of it — unlikely, but we’ll see,” Evers said. “It’s still too early, but we are prepared for any possibility. We’re not waiting until the end to figure this out.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, is pleased with the Joint Finance Committee’s recommendations and said Republicans funded the priorities Evers laid out to the public.
“The priorities of what Gov. Evers said he wanted, we have checked every box,” Vos said. “We’ve done it in a way that’s conservative and not liberal. Because we agree we want good schools and a good healthcare system and good roads — we just don’t think we should have had to have the massive tax increases that Gov. Evers proposed, and our budget proves that that’s true.”
Vos said Republicans “eliminated all of the liberal policy that Gov. Evers put in (the proposed budget), things like dramatically raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, all of that kind of stuff.
“That’s out and will be discussed, if at all, in the traditional legislative format and not inside the budget,” Vos said
One of the major points of contention in the budget has been transportation, and through various fee increases Republicans were able to generate roughly an additional $393 million in revenue to pay for road improvements.
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“I’m pleased that the Republicans came up with a larger number than I anticipated,” Evers said.
But Evers said he is not totally satisfied with the mechanisms used to raise the funds. For example, the Republican budget does not include an increase in the gas tax, which would have gathered some revenue from out-of-state drivers.
“The proposals that they put together, and are looking at in the future, are dependent on Wisconsinites paying the whole bill,” Evers said.
Vos said had there been more communication between the Governor’s Office and the Legislature “he would have realized we were serious about fixing the roads and it wasn’t just political rhetoric.”
“We’ve been talking about it now for six years, so when the Senate and the Assembly sit down and talk, it’s amazing how much we can actually get done,” Vos said. “And we’ve done all of that in spite of having virtually no involvement from Gov. Evers.”
When asked how long the budget fight might go on for, Vos said that is a decision that “belongs to Gov. Evers alone.”
Vos said Republicans plan today to unveil a middle-income tax cut, which “will send more money back to hardworking families all across the state.”
As the Foxconn development continues, Evers said his administration will continue to keep a watchful eye on the project.
While the United States continues to negotiate with China on trade policy, Evers said he understands that Foxconn will make decisions that are in the best interests of the company.
“Foxconn is going to make decisions based on tariffs and all sorts of other issues that impact them,” Evers said, adding that his administration’s goal is making sure Foxconn is held accountable and taxpayers are protected.
“Certainly we want them to bring as many jobs as possible; if that happens that’s great,” Evers said. “But transparency is important … at the end of the day they’re going to be making business decisions, and hopefully those business decisions happen in a way that (create) more jobs in the state.”