Gov. Evers signs two-year state budget--with some vetoes

Gov. Tony Evers signs biennial budget (WBAY photo)
Gov. Tony Evers signs biennial budget (WBAY photo)(WBAY)
Published: Jul. 3, 2019 at 11:12 AM CDT
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Wisconsin's Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has signed the state's two-year budget into law--with a few dozen vetoes.

The governor says highlights include investing millions in rural healthcare, veterans programs, school mental health programs, transportation, and prosecutors.

Evers ran on fixing Wisconsin's roads. He says the budget includes $465 million in new funding for highways, roads and transit.

There's a $518 million in tax relief for lower and middle-class families.

The budget invests about $570 million for K-12 schools.

It also invests more than $32 million in improving water quality.

"Our proposal, written by and with the people of our state, fully funded our schools and provided the largest ever increase in funding for special education, expanded Medicaid with millions of dollars being infused by the federal government to improve health care for all of Wisconsin Wisconsinites," Evers said Wednesday during a bill-signing ceremony.

to view the full budget.

In his announcement, Evers criticized Republicans in the legislature for devoting too much time to "huffing and puffing" during the budget process. He also says he considered vetoing the budget, because he believes it falls short of his administration's original proposals.

"While this budget makes critical investments in areas that were included in The People’s Budget, this is a down payment on the progress we must make in the next biennial budget," said Gov. Evers. "Vetoing this budget would have meant passing up the opportunity to provide investments in special education, the largest general school aid increase in a decade, increased revenue to fix our roads, and critical investments in broadband expansion, Wisconsin shares, child welfare, rural hospitals, and transit, among other important priorities."

Gov. Evers used his broad line-item veto powers to issue vetoes or partial vetoes of 78 different items in the budget bill.

Some lawmakers voiced their disappointment with the budget. Rep. Dave Steffen (R-Green Bay) is not pleased that the budget didn't include funding to build a new facility to place the 121-year-old Green Bay Correctional Institution.

“Despite his initial public statements supporting the replacement of Green Bay Correctional Institution, Governor Evers reversed course and caved to the liberal Madison political machine rather than listening to the state’s contracted experts or the thousands of residents, businesses and community leaders who supported this solution. Sadly, Governor Evers’ decision means GBCI, the most dangerous place in Wisconsin, will continue to degrade, waste even more taxpayers’ dollars and accelerate the operational and safety crisis at our state’s most notorious prison.” says Rep. Steffen.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) also bemoaned the vetoes of projects in Northeast Wisconsin.

“While our conservative budget is a win for the state, I am disheartened by the lack of consideration northeast Wisconsin communities received through Governor Evers’ veto process, Steineke says. "Through his pen, the governor has jeopardized projects like the Green Bay Correctional Institute, Veterans Memorial lift bridge in Kaukauna, and a new interchange on I-41. I am disappointed that, once again, it seems Governor Evers is focused solely on his base in Milwaukee and Madison to the detriment of the rest of the state."

There were mixed reviews from Republicans.

“Wisconsinites have strongly urged Governor Evers to support the crucial funding increases made by Republicans. I am glad to see that their calls of support have not fallen on deaf ears. Make no mistake, the budget signed by Governor Evers is the Legislature's budget. The majority of provisions touted by Governor Evers today came directly from Republicans. All of which, we were able to do without expanding welfare, or raising taxes as he had proposed," says State Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette).

“With that said, I am disappointed that Governor Evers has chosen to use his veto pen to limit drug testing and work requirements for those on welfare. At a time of record low unemployment and increasing wages, the last thing we should do is incentivize welfare. Overwhelmingly, Wisconsinites support drug testing for those receiving valuable taxpayer dollars. The need to protect the taxpayers is now more urgent than ever.”

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach expressed disappointment about the governor's decision to veto part of the transportation budget that included the I-41 interchange expansion.

"This unfortunate decision evokes uncertainty about the future of this important regional project," Streckenbach said in a tweet. "However, in talking with Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson today, we are hopeful this project will remain a priority for his agency and will not invalidate 30-plus years of hard work."