Republican legislative leaders on Thursday called on Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to join 13 other states in suing the federal government to allow states to use the latest influx of federal stimulus dollars to cut taxes.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, sent a letter to Kaul to join other states in filing suit based on the argument that the federal government overstepped its constitutional authority in prohibiting states from cutting taxes with the money.
“A state’s power to control its own budget and decide its state’s tax burden is a core legislative function that is constitutionally protected,” Vos and LeMahieu wrote. “(The latest stimulus’) restriction that states may not reduce taxes — only raise them — is an unfair limitation on the sovereign authority of the states that acted responsibly and prudently during the trying times of this pandemic.”
Republicans want a response by April 21.
“If the Majority Leader and Speaker would like to use federal funding to cut taxes, they should expand Badgercare, saving a huge amount of state tax money, rather than advocating for Wisconsin to join a strained lawsuit,” Kaul said in a statement.
Wisconsin could save more than $1.6 billion over the next two-year budget cycle by expanding Medicaid.
The letter from GOP leaders comes as Gov. Tony Evers, who has authority to direct the use of stimulus funds within the bounds set by the federal government, has already largely determined how he plans to distribute the more than $3 billion directed to the state in the most recent stimulus package.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Republicans, who have virtually no authority over the use of such funds, from introducing a series of bills that would provide an alternative plan for the money. Their plan would, among other things, provide $500 million to pay state debt, $275 million in assistance for small businesses and $1 billion in property tax relief.
Evers has signaled he will veto the Republican measures.
In recent days, however, it’s become clear that a majority of Republican plans for spending $3.2 billion in federal stimulus money either may not be allowed under the law or might have to be repaid, according to nonpartisan analyses of the bills that are moving quickly through the Legislature.
The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget-writing Joint Finance Committee passed a package of 11 bills on party-line votes following a hastily called hearing Wednesday with just a day’s notice. Republicans argued the bills are their attempt to reach a compromise with Democrats.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau determined that three of the proposals call for spending about $626 million on areas possibly not allowed under the federal law. Additionally, a proposed $1 billion property tax cut for all homeowners in Wisconsin and money earmarked for unemployment insurance may have to be repaid by the state, the Fiscal Bureau said.
The Fiscal Bureau said it appears that the federal law would not allow for the Republican proposals to retire $250 million in bonds used for transportation projects; $308 million in loans for local road projects; and $68 million to replace a statewide public safety communication system and expand the number of psychiatric beds at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.
The federal law generally allows for the money to be spent by the end of 2024 for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic; replacing revenues lost due to the pandemic; investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; paying essential state workers up to $13 an hour; and paying non-government entities that transport passengers and cargo for the government.
However, specific guidelines on what the federal money could be used for have not been issued, leading the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to say it’s unclear in many circumstances whether the Republican bills would be allowed.
Given that there’s no federal guidance yet, concerns that the money won’t be spent as proposed is “based on speculation at this point,” LeMahieu said.
Republican spending proposals that would be permitted, according to the Fiscal Bureau, included $500 million for broadband expansion; $200 million for small businesses; $150 million for nursing homes and assisted living facilities; $75 million in tourism grants; $61 million to combat water pollution; and $50 million for rural economic development.
Evers last week said he plans to direct $600 million of the federal money to help small businesses; $50 million for the tourism industry; $200 million to upgrade infrastructure, including broadband access; and $500 million on pandemic response efforts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces
Make no mistake about it: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left painful scars. But this year’s Top Workplaces project shows that many employees across the Madison region remain resiliently upbeat and are clinging to their workplace cultures, even from a distance.
Celebrate the best of Madison’s local employers and hear top executives explain how they create and maintain their cultures of growth.
This year’s winners run the gamut from dentistry to financial institutions and engineering to software developers and many more.
Survey feedback from employees is the sole basis for determining Top Workplaces. And that feedback serves as the ultimate test of how employers are responding in the age of COVID.
This year’s top-ranked large organization, with about 590 Madison-area employees, UW Credit Union has made diversity a priority during the past few years.
Exact Sciences, which rose from a small operation to a growing force in cancer diagnostics, thrives on a workplace culture fueled by innovation, teamwork and a common enemy.
Teamwork, problem-solving and helping agents find success — however they measure it — drive the workplace culture at First Weber Realtors.
Everyone wants their pre-pandemic lives back, but the crisis revealed the value of Summit Credit Union’s strong culture.
The ability of Kwik Trip employees to manage change was important to the convenience store chain’s success during the past year, as it expanded, rolled out new product offerings and dealt with COVID-19.
Here are the other top-ranked large firms in Top Workplaces 2021, rounding out a diverse mix of some of the area’s bigger employers and featuring a range of benefits that employees are able to tap into.
The Madison-based firm, which develops mass notification software to alert employees at schools, government office and businesses to emergency situations, strives to understand what drives high job satisfaction among its employees.
WPPI Energy president and CEO Mike Peters says communication is vital to the success of the Sun Prairie-based, member-owned operation that serves 51 local electric utilities with wholesale electric power supply, utility technologies and services.
Employees at Madison-based Ascendium Education Group have adopted the values and mission of the organization and appreciate the training that keeps them on the cutting edge.
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation values humility and customer service in a culture that has buy-in from CEO Steve Jacobson to the newe…
The disruption and chaos inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic tested the stability of First Choice Dental’s workplace culture.
The Top Workplaces winners among midsize companies reflect innovative styles to building corporate cultures that their employees embrace. Here’s a look at the other winners in the mid-size category:
When the pandemic arrived, Horizon Develop Build Manage president and CEO Dan Fitzgerald was certain of one thing: His employee culture, built purposefully and over time, would carry the company through all of the disruption.
When Jack Koziol started InfoSec Institute in Madison in 2004, he felt that workplace culture was nothing more than a corporate buzzword. Seventeen years later, he knows better.
In the past chaos-packed year, revenues dipped for the downtown advertising, design and digital agency — a result of the economic mess created by the pandemic — and the agency had its first layoffs in 20 years, while its staff was scattered to complete work remotely.
Being successful in providing customers with information technology solutions and services starts with a family-centered culture based on fun, gratitude and expertise at AE Business Solutions.
The Sun Prairie-based company, which specializes in servicing and supplying components for heavy-duty, off-highway equipment through 10 service centers in the U.S. and Canada, strives for transparency.
Although winners in the small-company category reflect a variety of missions, they share a common characteristic: They have built strong workplaces that provide stand-out benefits and flexibility. Here are the other winners in the small-company category:
Among this year’s Top Workplaces, employees singled out several companies for their extraordinary efforts in important phases of workplace life, ranging from leadership to transparency.
Businesses that suddenly found themselves in the midst of a pandemic that shattered conventional ways of working quickly discovered that a strong workplace culture was vital to surviving and thriving during the crisis.
We have no idea what the extent of these changes will be or whether this whole notion of “normal” will ever find itself back into our lives.
Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, spoke about what makes CUNA’s culture special.
Kathy Marsh, co-founder and vice chair of Musicnotes, shares her thoughts on the workplace culture at the Madison-based digital sheet music retailer.
Larry Barton, chief executive officer of Strang, talks about creating a strong culture at the Madison-based firm.
To become a Top Workplace, organizations instill in their team members a variety of values and approaches that keep their businesses thriving in the marketplace, their employees engaged and their communities strong.