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Friday, May 24, 2024
Tony Evers Student Loan Debt April 8.jpg
Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers speaks at Joe Biden's Student Debt Forgiveness unveiling on April 8, 2024.

Evers sues Legislature over refusal to release K-12 literacy funding

Evers’ lawsuit comes in response to a case filed by Republican lawmakers challenging the governor’s partial veto of a law aimed at funding new literacy programs in Wisconsin.

Gov. Tony Evers sued the Wisconsin Legislature Monday over its refusal to release already-approved investments, including $50 million in funds aimed at increasing K-12 literacy. 

Evers’ lawsuit comes in response to a case filed by Republicans in the Legislature on April 16 challenging the governor’s partial veto of 2023 Wisconsin Act 100, a law aimed at funding new literacy programs throughout the state. 

Additionally, $200 million in approved funding intended to combat PFAS contamination, provide resources to respond to hospital closures in Western Wisconsin and improve K-12 literacy have yet to be released by the Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance, according to Evers

“The people of this state should not have to wait one day longer than they already have — these are taxpayer dollars, the Legislature and I already approved these investments months and months ago, and Republican legislators should not be able to single-handedly prevent us from doing the people’s work,” Evers said in a press release Monday. 

The Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) Associate Deputy State Superintendent Tom McCarthy said DPI’s goal is “to improve literacy education and outcomes for Wisconsin students, not participate in political or constitutional debate,” in a statement Monday.  

Evers’ lawsuit came as Senate Republicans announced plans to override a number of Evers' vetoes at scheduled press conferences throughout the state. 

“Every day in Wisconsin, there are issues facing the average Wisconsinite. Fortunately, the Legislature has addressed many of those issues,” Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said at the press conference at the state Capitol Monday. “Unfortunately, the governor has chosen to veto many of those bills that would’ve fixed a lot of these issues in our state.” 

In a letter to Evers Monday, Senate Republicans asked the governor to urge his Democratic colleagues in the Legislature to vote alongside Republicans to override the vetoes. Some Democratic votes would be needed in the Assembly to reach the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. 

Senate Republicans further said it is their interpretation of Wisconsin laws that the Joint Finance Committee cannot release the funds while the veto stands and that they cannot override gubernatorial vetoes.

“We will not break the law and override your vetoes through committee action,” the letter said. “This week is a final opportunity to end this unnecessary obstruction and deliver another bipartisan win to our mutual constituencies.”

In a separate statement Monday, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, echoed the letter’s calls for releasing the “crucial funds.” 

“On Tuesday, the Senate will give Governor Evers and Senate Democrats another chance to do the right thing and create the programs necessary to release these crucial funds into communities that need them,” LeMahieu said.

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While Republicans have a two-thirds majority in the Senate, Republicans will likely struggle to garner the supermajority in the Assembly required to override gubernatorial vetoes. The bills are set to be brought back to the floor Tuesday. 

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Anna Kleiber

Anna Kleiber is the state news editor for The Daily Cardinal. Follow her on Twitter at @annakleiber03.

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