State News

Mixed week for Evers: Republicans reject budget proposals while judge rules lame-duck laws unconstitutional

The new evers administration is reintroducing sustainability and climate change measures to Wisconsin policy, signifying a return to the state's historic environmental legacy. 

Image By: Jacob Schellpfeffer

Last week saw two decisions take place in Madison that sent ripples throughout the capital and state.

First, Republicans on the State Building Commission voted against all 82 of Gov. Tony Evers’ projects included in his capital budget. 

The commission did not provide any recommendations detailing what projects within the $2.5 billion budget they see should be prioritized over others, a move not seen in the budget approval process in 70 years.  

“To enact this large a program in one biennium is both unrealistic and unsustainable," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, in a joint statement. 

Evers’ capital budget outspends former Gov. Scott Walker’s 2017 budget by about $1.5 billion. 

The budget will now move to the Republican-held Joint Committee on Finance, leaving possible beneficiaries of the budget’s works projects in limbo, including around $1.96 billion designated for the UW System. 

“Over 60 percent of our buildings are between 45 and 70 years old. The risks to safety, to our maintenance costs, and to Wisconsin's ability to attract and retain students are only growing,” UW System President Ray Cross said. “We look forward to continuing to make our case as the full legislature considers these capital projects.”

Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee voiced concern over the commission’s lack of recommendations and what they believe to be a partisan political decision. 

“Republicans and Democrats have historically come together to support common sense investments in our capital infrastructure,” state Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement. “Playing politics with these investments jeopardizes economic growth and the future of our state.”

“It is unbelievable that the Wisconsin GOP would rather let state buildings crumble, even in their own districts, than learn to compromise,” said state rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. 

Community leaders like Dane County Executive Joe Parisi voiced their concern over lack of funding for local projects, such as the $30 million expansion of the Alliant Energy included in Evers’ budget. 

“The state and county have a precedent of working together to enhance the Alliant Energy Center campus and bolster state tourism,” Parisi said in a statement. “I am disappointed commission members failed to come together and support projects like the Exhibition Hall expansion—a project that would benefit our entire state and help us further promote our agriculture industry.” 

Nearly 24 hours after the commission's vote, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess ordered a temporary injunction on the laws passed by the legislature in late of last year during the extraordinary lame-duck session under Walker. 

Some of the laws passed curbed power away from then-upcoming Gov. Evers. 

The suit was brought to the courts by a variety of groups, including League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. 

Evers took advantage of the ruling quickly by using his newly allotted power to remove Wisconsin from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Under the lame-duck laws,  Evers did not have this power. 

“The Legislature overplayed its hand by using an unlawful process to accumulate more power for itself and override the will of the people, despite the outcome of last November’s election,” Evers said in a tweet

Republican leadership decried the decision and will file an appeal of the decision to the court. 

“Today’s ruling only creates chaos and will surely raise questions about items passed during previous extraordinary sessions, including stronger laws against child sexual predators and drunk drivers,” Vos and Fitzgerald said in a joint statement.

This is not the end of the road for either of the decisions. The ruling by Judge Niess will be appealed in court by Republican lawmakers, and Evers’ budget will likely be edited by members of the legislature. 

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