GOP Lawmakers Remove Hundreds of Items from Governor Evers’ Budget Plan

With a single vote Tuesday, Republicans lawmakers dramatically reshaped Governor Tony Evers’ proposed budget.

GOP members of the Legislature’s budget committee voted to remove 545 proposals from the governor’s proposed two-year spending plan, ranging from a new paid family leave program to a deal to fund upgrades to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium. Other Evers budget initiatives rejected by Republicans Tuesday include an expansion of Medicaid, the legalization of marijuana and an enrollment freeze in the state’s voucher school program.

This is Evers’ third proposed budget since becoming governor in 2019, and the third time Republicans have started deliberations by rejecting a long list of the governor’s initiatives.

Joe Heim, a professor emeritus of political science, said the process isn’t surprising to budget observers at this point. “When you’ve got a Democratic governor and a Republican Legislature, you expect certain things,” Heim said. “There are things in (Evers’) budget that I think he put in to satisfy certain constituencies. You know, he just had an election. So he had certain promises that he would make knowing fully well that this stuff is going to disappear.”

Also on Tuesday, Republicans voted to build the budget from “base,” meaning they will add spending to the budget Republicans passed and Evers signed two years ago rather than the one he proposed to the Legislature in February. A handful of Democrats also supported that budget in both houses of the Legislature.

“The bottom line is we are building off base a budget that was bipartisan for the first time since 2007,” said Rep. Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc.

While Republicans have spent the past several months criticizing Evers’ budget, Tuesday marked the first time they took votes on pieces of the budget themselves. Deals on bigger issues — like school funding — could come together later this month.

“If the past is prologue, they will eventually come to somewhat of an agreement, at least the more contentious issues,” Heim said. “Most observers that I’ve talked to seem to think that this is actually going to get done by the end of June.”