MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers may not get a lot of what he wants from his first state budget proposal. But local Republican legislators aren’t dismissing all his expenditure proposals.
Evers’ $2.5 billion capital budget proposal was immediately met with intense backlash from Republicans. A letter, penned by GOP leaders, called the size of the borrowing request “unrealistic and unsustainable.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, conceded that most, if not all, of the requests in Evers’ capital budget could be worthy of funding.
“There’s a lot of worthwhile projects in here,” Vos said, without elaborating on what he supports and what he doesn’t.
But the money simply isn’t there; the new governor is asking for too much, according to Republican leaders.
Former Gov. Scott Walker’s last capital budget, approved in 2017, only requested $0.8 billion — although it ended up costing closer to $1 billion. That’s far less than half the size of Evers’ first proposal.
Evers’ proposal, if approved in full, would include about $2 billion in borrowing. Walker’s 2015 capital budget only borrowed about $100 million.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, in an email to The Journal Times, said that the governor has an “unrealistic view of budgeting.”
“Gov. Evers proposed a building program that was completely divorced from reality,” Wanggaard said. “It was a dream wish list of projects and borrowed and spent way too much money.”
Hit and miss
One project that will probably end up getting approved is the planned $5.36 million expansion to the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Dover.
The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates the facility, said that the cemetery will be pretty much out of space within three years unless the expansion is approved by the state.
“Moving forward with these projects is what best serves the people of our state,” Carla Vigue, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said. “These projects ensure that our nation’s heroes will continue to receive the dignified sendoff they deserve.”
If the $5.36 million isn’t in the final budget, Vigue said it would “dishonor our veterans.”
In an emailed statement to The Journal Times, Wanggaard said that the cemetery is one of the items in Evers’ proposal that he wants to see get approved.
The same goes for increasing access to mental-health facilities, which Evers wants to expand via programs for offenders leaving the prison system and offering $100,000 per year in mental health assistance for farmers’ families.
But less pressing projects — such as a new fire alarm system at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Somers, as well as a new telephone system and security cameras at the Wisconsin Veterans Home-Union Grove — may end up getting left on the cutting-room floor.
“Republicans will be reviewing these capital projects,” Wanggaard said, “and will put together a responsible building program that taxpayers can afford.”
“Republicans will be reviewing these capital projects and will put together a responsible building program that taxpayers can afford.” State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine