Republican legislative leaders say they are looking to override one of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers' partial vetoes in the state budget after his administration announced a new grant program that could provide funding for transit projects, including the Milwaukee streetcar.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald Thursday raised the possibility of addressing the language after the Department of Transportation announced framework for allocating the aid under the new $75 million local roads funding grant program.
Republicans initially sought $90 million in the state budget in general purpose revenue for local road projects. But Evers in his budget vetoes earlier this month reduced the funding by $15 million and allowed for expanded uses of the money.
“The governor is taking money from local road construction to fund Milwaukee’s trolley to nowhere,” Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, wrote in a tweet. “Rural Dems should push back — veto override!”
Vos, meanwhile, echoed his Senate counterpart, calling it “simply ludicrous” for Evers to “turn his back on Wisconsin drivers everywhere.”
“We’re seriously considering a veto override,” the Rochester Republican said in a statement.
Evers' budget vetoes reduced funding to $75 million and removed the boundaries on how the money could be spent, which he wrote in his veto message would “allow the (DOT) to prioritize the most critical transit and transportation needs.”
Agency Secretary Craig Thompson in a Capitol news conference Thursday said the changes help give flexibility to the state to distribute the funding and allow money to go toward harbor, bike path, railroad or transit projects, though he added “the vast majority will definitely be going to local roads.”
“It would not be responsible to take one-time money of GPR and increase an ongoing program by that amount when there’s not sustainable ongoing revenue to support that,” Thompson said, explaining Evers’ veto in a news conference Thursday. “This again is one-time money.”
He also pushed back on what he called “a narrative that this money is going to go to Madison and Milwaukee.”
“We will have regional distributional assurances, that every area of this state receives money,” he said.
Under the program outlines DOT announced Thursday, $26.7 million of the $75 million would be reserved for counties; $19 million would go to cities or villages and $29.3 million would go to towns. The state would cover 90 percent of the projects' costs.
Going forward, Thompson predicted it would take between six and eight weeks to get the program up and running to begin receiving applications.
If lawmakers want to override any of the vetoed provisions, they have until the end of the legislative session, Dec. 31, 2021, to take the votes.
In order to override a partial veto, two-thirds of the members present in both houses of the Legislature must vote to overturn the language.
Vos has said if the Legislature were to take override votes, members wouldn’t return until October to consider them.