As expected, the state’s GOP-led budget committee plans to strip hundreds of items from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed two-year spending plan, including measures to create a paid family leave program, legalize recreational marijuana and increase funding for mental health providers in schools.
An omnibus budget motion for the Joint Finance Committee’s Tuesday meeting includes a list of more than 500 items that Republicans plan to remove from the governor’s 2023-25 budget proposal. Lawmakers enter the budget process with a historic $7 billion projected state surplus, although much of that is in the form of one-time funds.
The governor’s $103.8 billion, two-year budget, which he unveiled in February, marks a nearly 19% increase over the roughly $87.3 billion budget that runs through the end of June. It would create more than 800 new full-time positions, roughly 369 of which would be covered by state funds — a proposal that Republican legislative leaders have called “ridiculous.”
People are also reading…
Asked for comment, Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback referred to a tweet she posted Friday that said, “GOP have no real plans to address pressing challenges facing our state.”
Legislative Republicans have long signaled plans to handle Evers’ proposal the same way they did in the last two budget sessions — by stripping the measure down to its base and starting over from scratch. The Republican-controlled budget committee will soon begin rewriting the budget that will eventually be sent to Evers’ desk for action sometime this summer.
“Although the items on the list will not be included in the Committee’s budget deliberations, some of them might be addressed in non-budget legislation and could require language in the budget to carry out the intent of those acts,” budget committee co-chairs Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said in a memo to committee members. “The Committee will address those matters as necessary.”
Democrats on the committee blasted the GOP announcement in a joint statement issued Friday.
“Republicans are once again choosing political retribution over people,” the lawmakers said. “Gutting 545 provisions — an increase from the 391 stripped out in the last state budget on the first day of executive sessions — from even being discussed is not healthy for democracy and it is not the way Wisconsinites want their government to operate.”
One item Republicans plan to remove from Evers’ budget is the governor’s call for the creation of a paid family and medical leave program that would provide eligible public- and private-sector workers with 12 weeks of paid leave beginning in 2025.
The program, which would be launched using about $243 million in state funds, would become self-sustaining by 2026, as it would be funded through payroll contributions from employers and employees — similar to the state’s unemployment insurance program.
Wisconsin’s current family leave law provides two weeks of unpaid leave for an employee’s serious health condition and two weeks for a serious health condition of a parent, child or spouse. It also offers six weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. But employees are limited to taking off eight weeks total.
To become eligible for those benefits, employees must have worked at their company for at least 52 consecutive weeks and worked 1,000 hours in the previous year.
The committee also plans to strip Evers’ proposals to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana. Assembly Republicans told The Associated Press that they plan to introduce a limited medical marijuana program this session.
The committee is also scheduled to eliminate budget provisions authorizing $270 million to add more mental health workers to schools. Evers proposed increasing the number of mental health providers in schools after the state Office of Children’s Mental Health found Wisconsin youth feeling increasingly sad and hopeless, though half of them received no treatment.
Republicans for months have said Evers was unlikely to get as much spending on mental health as he proposed, though they have said they want to tackle the issue. They’ve introduced legislation to permit family therapists to work in schools, provide loan forgiveness for school psychologists and allow schools to bill for more services.
Another Evers proposal that Republicans plan to remove from the budget is spending $290 million to repair the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Evers’ plan was “dead” in March, though he added that Republicans plan to release their own proposal to extend the team’s lease in Wisconsin.
Evers’ proposed tax cut, which would cut income taxes by 10% for individuals earning $100,000 or less a year and married filers making $150,000 or less, will also be removed. Republicans have largely focused their efforts on flattening the state’s more than 110-year-old income tax.
Additional proposals Republicans plan to remove from consideration include:
- $120 million to provide free meals in Wisconsin schools.
- $52 million to support K-12 students with limited English knowledge.
- Limiting the expansion of private school voucher programs.
- $24.5 million to cover tuition costs not otherwise covered by scholarships or grants for low-income students in the University of Wisconsin System.
- $2.8 million to provide services for veterans who are UW System students.
- $2 million to create a homeless veteran rental assistance program.
- $9.3 million to establish the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.
- Allowing courts to prohibit people who may be a danger to others from having guns.
- Raising the minimum wage for most employees.
- Full Medicaid expansion.
- Establishing a $35 copay cap on insulin.
- Spending $218,700 to administer new record retention requirements for state lawmakers.
- Requiring the Department of Natural Resources to create rules establishing acceptable levels and required response actions for PFAS.
- Adding equity officers to Wisconsin agencies.
- Allowing cities and counties outside of Milwaukee to impose a 0.5% local sales and use tax.
- $380 million to pay principal and interest on outstanding transportation revenue bonds.
- $200 million for workforce innovation grants.
- Repealing the state’s right-to-work law.
- $1.9 million to create and operate an office of election transparency and compliance within the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Inside the battle over the upcoming 2-year Wisconsin budget
Over the next several months, the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will battle their way through the the 2023-25 biennial budget process as the state has a projected surplus of more than $7 billion.
Evers has called for a 10% tax cut for individuals earning $100,000 or less a year and married filers making $150,000 or less.
The governor's budget proposal is all but certain to receive pushback from legislative Republicans, who have championed the need to implement a flat income tax in Wisconsin.
Evers on Tuesday also unveiled proposals to cut taxes, increase local government funding, spend more than $100 million to deal with PFAS contamination and support child care providers.
Around a third of students across Wisconsin feel sad and hopeless almost every day, according to the Office of Children's Mental Health.
Wisconsin's latest fiscal outlook projects the state will wrap up the current fiscal year with about half a billion dollars more than previous projections.
The two top options being discussed are adjusting the state's income tax to benefit middle class earners or eliminating the current tax and creating a 3.25% flat tax.
Gov. Tony Evers calls for increased aid for veterans related to housing, employment, mental health services
Evers will unveil his formal budget request on Feb. 15. From there, the Republican-controlled budget committee will rewrite the document before sending it back to the governor.
Of the more than 4.2 million licensed drivers in Wisconsin, 770,000 had at least one OWI citation or conviction as of the end of 2021.