Democrats on the Legislature's budget committee said Friday they don't trust Republican leaders to limit themselves as they look at ways to curb the authority of Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers.
The potential effort from Republicans is "embarrassing" and shows "desperation" from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, the Democrats said.
"In the end, they’re trying to erode and take away Tony Evers' ability to be governor," Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, told reporters in the Capitol.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, accused Republicans of embarking on a "power grab" modeled after changes passed in the North Carolina Legislature to limit the authority of the state's incoming Democratic governor in 2016.
Vos told reporters Wednesday he was interested in limiting some of the governor's powers, but did not offer specifics. Fitzgerald said the next day that he thought the comments had been blown out of proportion.
"When I picked up the paper yesterday I was like, 'I’m not sure why there’s all this discussion about, we’re trying to somehow undermine the new governor.'" Fitzgerald told reporters Thursday. "That’s not the case at all. I think there’s some stuff that’s going to be reasonable."
There is no concrete list of changes Republican lawmakers plan to make, Fitzgerald said, but he and Vos have discussed possibilities including changing the makeup of some government-appointed boards to give legislative appointees more representation.
Under the Republican majority, Gov. Scott Walker has enjoyed broadened authority over the state rules that offer further guidance and instruction on how to enforce state laws. Fitzgerald said Republican lawmakers are interested in codifying some rules implemented under Walker's terms to give them the force of law.
"I think once they get in a room and try and figure out what they want to take away from Gov.-elect Evers, they won’t be able to stop themselves," Erpenbach said.
Both Erpenbach and Taylor said if Republicans move forward with these efforts, they expect some changes could end up being challenged in court.
They also noted that the original intent of an extraordinary session called for this month by Fitzgerald and Vos was to pass legislation offering up to $100 million in tax incentives to Kimberly-Clark if the company does not close both of its Fox Valley plants, which together employ about 600 people. The company is reconsidering closing its Cold Spring plant, located in Fox Crossing, as it awaits action from the Legislature. The Cold Sprint plant employs about 500 people.
The legislation passed the Assembly in February, but was never taken up by the Senate.
Both Fitzgerald and Walker have said the bill will need Democrats to vote for it in order for it to pass the Senate. Several Senate Republicans have voiced their opposition to the proposal.
"As far as I know there aren’t any members of our caucus that would support it right now. We haven’t had any input on it," Erpenbach said. "If (Fitzgerald is) seven votes short, he’s got a lot of work to do in his own caucus."
Fitzgerald said Thursday if the bill has bipartisan support, the Senate could vote on it later this month and return next month to consider other bills.