Gov. Tony Evers will likely control how billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 stimulus money is spent in Wisconsin despite a GOP-backed effort to give state lawmakers more power and oversight of the funds.
The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval on Wednesday to a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. According to estimates released last month by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Wisconsin is set to receive roughly $5.7 billion, about $3.2 billion of which would be directed to state government.
Current state law gives the governor broad powers to spend federal money sent to the state. Under a bill from GOP lawmakers, the Legislature’s state budget committee, which is controlled by Republicans, would have the power to block Evers administration spending plans. The administration would have to submit all plans to the committee, which would have 14 days to meet and vote to block any proposal. The committee’s power would only apply to federal coronavirus aid received before June 30, 2022.
Supporters of the bill include Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg. They argue the Legislature, which plays a key role in crafting the state budget every two years, should be involved in disbursing the aid, in part because it’s so substantial.
“We feel it’s important to have legislative input into the process, to give our say, to represent our areas of the state, our constituents, and give that oversight,” LeMahieu said during an Assembly committee hearing on Wednesday.
The governor’s spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, confirmed Wednesday that Evers would veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.