BUDGET (copy)

Gov. Tony Evers signed his first state budget into law in July after issuing 78 partial vetoes.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to take up a challenge brought by a conservative firm that aims to scale back the governor's veto powers. 

The lawsuit, filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, asked justices to reconsider the state’s veto rules and nullify four budget vetoes taken by Gov. Tony Evers in early July.  

Filed over the summer on behalf of three Wisconsin taxpayers, the suit calls on the court to determine whether the governor may veto portions of a budget bill that are “essential, integral, and interdependent parts of those which were approved.”

The court on Wednesday decided to take the case directly, rather than directing the group to first go through the lower courts, a decision WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg praised in a statement. 

“The people of Wisconsin never intended the check on legislative power the Governor's veto represents to permit the Governor to legislate on his own," said Esenberg, who's representing the three Wisconsin taxpayers in the case. "We are pleased the Court agreed that Governor Evers’ recent use of the partial veto warrants judicial review.”

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback countered the governor's actions were lawful and consistent with pass precedent. 

"The governor’s vetoes improved Republicans’ budget by increasing support for our public schools and fixing our roads, and were entirely consistent with the Wisconsin Constitution, decades of decisions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and vetoes by prior governors," she said in a statement. 

The suit asks the court to reverse four of Evers' partial vetoes, including one that broadened what was proposed as a $3 million grant program to replace school buses with energy-efficient models. Evers removed the condition that the funding be used only for buses and instructed the Department of Administration to allocate up to $10 million for electric vehicle charging stations. 

Evers’ decision to use his veto power to increase per-pupil spending by $87 million over the next two years is not part of the lawsuit.

Instead, that language is the target of a separate proposed constitutional amendment from Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin. The language, which had a public hearing this week, would bar Wisconsin governors from using their veto pens to raise spending levels over what lawmakers approved in the biennial budget and other appropriations bills. 

Wisconsin governors hold the country's most powerful partial veto authority on spending measures, but aren't able to use the veto pen to create new words by striking out individual letters, and they can’t craft new sentences by combining parts of two or more lines in legislation. Both limitations were imposed after voters approved previous constitutional amendments to limit governors’ authority in that arena.  

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.