Governor signs state budget, including GOP-backed tax cut | national news
Governor Tony Evers signed the 2021-2023 state budget, which includes a tax cut of more than $ 2 billion backed by Republicans.
The Democratic governor used his veto pen to make 50 changes to the budget, although most of the changes were minor. Evers has one of the most powerful veto authorities in the country, with the ability to remove words, numbers and punctuation marks from the spending plan.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday morning at a Whitefish Bay elementary school, the governor presented his signing of the mostly Republican-backed budget as a bipartisan move.
“In many ways, this budget presents a false choice between the priorities that state citizens care about and deserve,” Evers said. “But after eight long years of politicians making decisions for all the wrong reasons, I ran for governor of this state and promised that I would always put people before politics.”
The governor said the veto on the entire budget was “not an option” because it would have compromised billions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid to the state. He also said that a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling last year “made it harder to (ly) partially oppose the budget, there’s no question about it.”
The GOP-controlled legislature last week approved the two-year spending plan on most party line votes, with Republicans voting for and Democrats against. Several Democrats who voted for the budget expressed hope that Evers would use its veto power to change levels of state spending in areas such as education.
Overall, the budget approved by lawmakers spent billions less than Evers demanded and omitted major governor’s proposals, including legalizing marijuana, expanding Medicaid, and increasing drug use. minimum wage. It also included a $ 3.4 billion tax cut that the governor had not proposed.
Evers said Thursday the budget was written in a way that would prevent him from using his veto power to increase spending on public schools, as he did for the last budget. Republican leaders have said they intentionally kept this budget concise to limit the governor’s editing power.
However, the governor used the budget signing press conference to announce that he would allocate $ 100 million in additional federal stimulus money to schools. Schools are already expected to receive $ 2.3 billion under the latest coronavirus aid programs.
“Other people in politics haven’t stopped me from doing what’s best for our children before,” Evers said. “Schools in districts across our state will be able to use these funds to support children in the classroom, hire educators and staff, provide additional education or mental health supports, purchase art supplies or computers, keep children”. lights on – everything you need to provide a great education. “
Republicans push back Evers touting tax cut
Republican legislative leaders were quick to criticize the governor on Thursday for praising the more than $ 2 billion tax cut included in the budget, arguing that Evers should not be able to claim any credit for the plan.
GOP lawmakers unveiled a $ 3.4 billion tax cut to be included in the budget last month. With his veto pen, Evers scaled down the plan slightly. However, it retains the most important element of the GOP-backed reduction: lowering income taxes for Wisconsin’s highest tax bracket from 6.27% to 5.3%. According to the Legislative Assembly’s non-partisan budget office, the change is expected to cost the state about $ 2.4 billion over two years. A person or family who earns between $ 50,000 and $ 60,000 a year would save $ 172 in income taxes each year, the budget office said.
Evers touted the cut as fulfilling its 2018 campaign pledge to cut taxes for middle-class families by 10%.
“Personally, I find it laughable and hypocritical that just six months ago Governor Evers presented his budget and proposed a tax hike of over $ 1 billion,” said Rep. Mark Born, R -Beaver Dam, at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “He had the opportunity to lead and deliver tax cuts for working families in Wisconsin, and he failed.”
According to the Legislative Assembly’s non-partisan budget office, Evers’ proposal would have raised taxes by about $ 1 billion over the next two years. These increases included limiting a tax credit for certain manufacturers and increasing capital gains taxes for high income earners.
“It was not a bipartisan process of like-minded colleagues,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said in a prepared statement. “(Evers) got stuck in a corner and rather than fighting for his unpopular budget and risking a political knockout, he and his team threw in the towel and signed our responsible budget.”
Partial fiscal veto limited in scope
The governor’s 50 partial budget vetoes were mostly minor. The changes contrast with the 78 vetoes issued by Evers for the last budget, in which it was able to increase funding for schools by around $ 65 million.
Highlights of the governor’s partial vetoes this time include:
Eliminate the requirement that the State Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection submit a plan to lawmakers on how they would spend $ 5 million over 5 years to increase agricultural exports. Evers said the report was “unnecessary and administratively burdensome” and criticized lawmakers for not including funding for the initiative in the budget.
Eliminate a $ 550 million transfer from the state’s general fund to its so-called “rainy day fund”. Evers said the money left in the general fund could be “immediately used to invest in our children, small businesses and our state’s continued economic recovery.” The current condition of the rainy day fund is the strongest it has been in years.
Elimination of a state Workforce Development Department study on the introduction of a sliding scale for unemployment benefits in Wisconsin based on the state’s unemployment rate.
Eliminate a change in eligibility for high-cost transportation assistance for schools. Evers said the change would prevent some rural schools that are currently receiving aid from receiving the funds in the future.
Removed a limit on the amount that can be spent on the security of the Lieutenant Governor’s office. Evers also vetoed a similar proposal in the last budget.
Elimination of $ 750,000 in grants to Lakeland STAR Academy, a charter school in Minocqua. “I oppose state grants to specific schools as the legislature has allocated new limited spending to the Wisconsin public school system as a whole,” Evers said in his veto message. “Every child in Wisconsin should be able to receive a great education in a public school, no matter what district they live in, and state funding decisions should not pick winners and losers among our children.”
Eliminate the permanent doubling of the annual transfer from the general state fund to its transport fund, from 0.25% to 0.5%. Evers said increasing the transfer permanently is not a good idea, although temporary increases may be warranted depending on economic conditions. “While increased transfers to the transport fund for the 2021-2023 biennium are reasonable given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on fuel tax collection, these increases should be temporary rather than permanent,” did he declare.
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