Veto the Damn Budget, Already!

Is Tony Evers too good a man to be the Governor?

I write to you from our cabin in the North Woods. Since we’ve owned this place I’ve learned how to use a chain saw. I’ve learned how to distinguish a tree from the forest. So, I feel qualified to offer my Governor some advice. Governor, these are the trees, and this is the forest.

If that’s too abstract for you (and why wouldn’t it be?), let me make myself clear. The Governor needs to flat out threaten to veto the entire state budget unless the Republicans play ball and give him a list of things he wants.

Instead, here’s what Evers said the other day, “There’s always important changes that are made and so I’m reluctant to say whether I’m going to sign it or veto it or veto parts of it,” Evers said. “That decision-making frankly takes a lot of time. We have to have the exact language in order to figure that out but clearly I’m not excited about what they’ve done for several areas. I’d say our education system in particular is pretty weak.”

No Governor, you don’t need the exact language. You don’t need to count every tree; you just need to see the whole forest. And what the Republicans are sending back to him looks nothing at all like his budget. It is their budget. And if he signs it, even with a plethora of line-item vetoes, he’ll only strengthen the political bully Speaker Robin Vos, as if Vos isn’t running circles around Evers already.

Tony Evers is a nice guy and a good man. Maybe that’s a problem.

On his most important priority — education — the Republicans have made a point of rubbing his nose in it. For example:

  • Evers wanted $192 million more for the UW System. They gave him just over $8 million.
  • Evers wanted another $1.6 billion for K-12 education. The Republicans gave him only $128 million. They later sent school districts a lot more, but then they required them to use the money to cut property taxes so that there’s really only that $128 million actual increase. It was just a sham to make sure the state gets $2.3 billion in Federal COVID relief.
  • Evers wanted almost $90 million to increase the state’s support for special education programs from 28% of costs to 50%. The Republicans nudged it up to only 30%.

And those were just Evers’ top priorities. They also cut his Stewardship Fund proposal from $70 million a year to $32 million, and there was a host of other stuff that they cut or eliminated.

Just to show you how petty these guys are, to snub the Governor and Madison they tossed in a provision that would prevent the State Historical Society from locating their new museum at the site of the much-hated GEF 1 fortress. No reason was given. It was in nobody’s best interests, except maybe big Republican donor and developer Eric Hovde whose own site for the museum was passed over. In any event, the move does give you insight into the souls of Speaker Robin Vos, the Joint Finance Committee chairs and the Republicans in general. These are small people.

So, the Governor needs to hit back hard. He should tell Vos now that he won’t sign this budget — tell him now, before they pass it. Then tell them he’s got two bottom lines. He will sign no budget without a nonpartisan redistricting commission and without accepting the Federal Medicaid expansion. Tell them also that he won’t accept short-changing public education. Maybe he’ll accept a lower number than his original proposal, but it’s got to be a lot higher than what they’re offering. If they send him a budget without those items he’ll veto the whole damned thing.

Then go out and sell his position all over the state. Editorial boards — not to mention the general public — are strongly in favor of these things. School districts and teachers are too. Since Wisconsin is the epicenter of the purple world, there are national organizations that would step up to buy TV ads to back him up.

All of this is crystal clear right now. Nobody needs the state budget office to parse every comma first. So step back, Governor, see the big picture — and threaten right now to veto the whole damn thing.

Welcome to the 130th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “Veto the Damn Budget, Already!

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