GOP Lawmakers to strip Pillars of Governor Evers’ Budget

Republican legislative leaders say their first action next week on Gov. Tony Evers’ budget plan will be to scrap several of its key pillars, including its expansion of Medicaid, overhaul of marijuana laws and tax hikes on big manufacturers and high earners.

Among the items being removed by Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee are Evers’ plans to:

  • Legalize medical marijuana and de-penalize possession of small amounts of the drug.
  • Cap enrollment in the state’s private-school voucher program.
  • Increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to to $10.50 by 2023, then link future increases to inflation.
  • End a freeze on property tax levies for counties and municipalities, allowing them to increase their levies by 2%.
  • Permit Wisconsin residents who are immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to get driver’s licenses or state ID cards, which would specify they could not be used as IDs to vote.
  • Grant in-state tuition to Wisconsin high school graduates who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
  • Repeal the state’s minimum markup requirement for fuel sales.
  • Repeal the “right-to-work” law enacted in 2015 that bars requirements for workers to pay fees covering a share of the costs of union representation.

The changes were announced in a memo, released late Wednesday, from the leaders of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, to committee members. It says the committee will begin work on the budget May 9, and that its first action will be to take up a motion to remove a list of items proposed by Evers.

A related statement from Nygren and Darling called Evers’ budget “unsustainable” and “irresponsible,” noting it would create a $2 billion structural deficit in two years.

According to the statement, the finance committee will remove 70 non-fiscal items from the budget, as it did two years ago with former Gov. Scott Walker’s budget. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau on Wednesday released a list of non-fiscal items in Evers’ budget. It was second-most in a governor’s budget proposal since 2001, topped only by the Walker budget in 2017.