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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Governor Tony Evers Inauguration.jpg
Gov. Evers delivers remarks after being sworn in for his second term as governor of Wisconsin on January 3, 2023.

Gov. Evers sues legislative Republicans for blocking UW System pay raises

The governor accused Republicans of an intrusion into executive powers and violating the Wisconsin Constitution.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers sued Republican state lawmakers Tuesday for blocking UW System pay raises, conservation projects and professional licensing programs in legislative committees, arguing the move violates the Wisconsin Constitution and intrudes into executive powers. 

The petition, filed by Attorney General Josh Kaul, accuses Republican lawmakers of creating “legislative vetoes” which bypass a vote in the Legislature by having specific, isolated members of the Legislature in committees affect state law.

“Republican legislators are unconstitutionally obstructing basic functions of government — actions that have not only aimed to prevent state government from efficiently and effectively serving the people of our state but are now actively harming tens of thousands of Wisconsinites every day across our state,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a press release Tuesday.

Evers specifically cited committee decisions to block a 6% pay raise over two years for UW System employees already enacted into law. Republican lawmakers refused to take the raises up alongside other state employee pay raises during an Oct. 17 meeting of the Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCOER).

Petitioners in the lawsuit are Gov. Evers, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the UW System Board of Regents, the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, and the Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board.

Republican Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Mark Born, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance, Sen. Chris Kapenga and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, co-chairs of JCOER, and Sen. Steve Nass and Rep. Adam Neylon, co-chairs of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, are named as respondents in the lawsuit.

The suit points to JCOER’s block of UW System pay raises, the Joint Finance Committee’s block of conservation programs under the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules’ block of updated building standards and licensing standards.

“In each of these areas, the legislative branch is using legislative committee vetoes to reach far beyond its proper zone of constitutional lawmaking authority,” the petition said. “Equally important, these vetoes empower legislative committees to interfere with executive branch authority and exercise executive power themselves.”

In an email statement to The Daily Cardinal Tuesday morning, UW System President Jay Rothman said “the less [the UW System is] subject to ongoing political disputes, the better we can do our job.” 

JCOER’s pay blocks were “unprecedented” and “part of a political disagreement between two separate branches of government,” according to Rothman. He said he’s troubled by faculty and staff “being stuck in the middle of this dispute.”

“Targeting the Universities of Wisconsin employees and their families to compel our universities to eliminate all diversity and inclusion positions, which was vetoed by the governor, left us in an incredible predicament,” Rothman said. “While it is not our lawsuit, it’s time for this whole ordeal that is blocking pay for our employees to come to an end.” 

This is a developing story.

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Liam Beran

Liam Beran is the Campus News Editor for The Daily Cardinal and a third-year English major. Throughout his time at the Cardinal, he's written articles for campus, state and in-depth news. Follow him on Twitter at @liampberan.

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