Two top Republicans on Thursday said they won’t consider Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and legalize it for medical use.
“It will not be in the final budget passed,” said Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the state’s powerful Joint Finance Committee, which is tasked with crafting the state budget that will require Evers’ signature.
The comments from Nygren and JFC co-chairwoman Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, at a WisPolitics.com luncheon eradicate the chances the governor’s sweeping cannabis proposal in the state budget will become law anytime soon.
“When you read what he actually has in his budget, it’s really off-the-wall scary,” Darling said.
Evers’ plan would enable people to legally access the drug with a physician’s recommendation to treat a list of “debilitating medical conditions,” including cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
Other parts of the governor’s plan call for removing all penalties for the possession, manufacture or distribution of 25 grams or less of marijuana, and allowing people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to have their records expunged.
Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff in an email pushed back against the comments from the JFC leaders, arguing Wisconsinites “overwhelmingly agree” with Evers’ proposal.
“What is scary is Republicans’ complete and total disregard for the will of the people,” she said.
The latest Marquette Law School Poll, released April 10, found 59% of registered voters believe marijuana use should be legal, while 83% say it should be legal for medical purposes with a doctor’s prescription.
Nygren said Republicans plan to pass their version of the budget by the end of June.
Nygren said neither the medical nor decriminalization aspect of Evers’ proposal will make it into the budget that the Republicans pass. But he left the door open for a plan to legalize medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription after the budget process plays out.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who has been open to medical marijuana, in February called Evers’ plan “preposterous” for opening the door to recreational use.
Meanwhile, the JFC leaders are split on whether to take up Evers’ proposal to tax e-cigarettes and vaping products the same way as tobacco products. The plan would impose a 71% tax on such products.
Darling said she’s not interested in taking up that issue in the budget, although she said the issue should be taken up at some point.
Nygren, however, said the governor’s proposal is still on the table.
“That will be something that we’ll have to arm wrestle on,” Nygren said, adding that a 71% tax may be too high.
He said he’d be interested in exploring a tax structure for such products based on the amount of nicotine they contain.
A day after Evers in a public letter suggested electronics maker Foxconn first suggested revisiting its $3 billion state incentive deal to reflect the company’s “evolving project” in Wisconsin, Alan Yeung, the company’s director for U.S. strategic initiatives, took to social media to suggest no one knows whether the company will fulfill its commitment to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2032.
“Calm down,” Yeung wrote. “Probably fake news. Who has the crystal ball to predict if 13,000 jobs will be created by the year 2032? Esp in April ‘19.”
Nygren on Thursday referenced the tweet in criticizing the Evers administration for “aggressively attacking” a company that wants to invest in Wisconsin. He said he took the tweet to mean “a lot can happen” between now and 2032, but that he still believes the company stands by its commitment to create 13,000 jobs in the state.
Evers last week said Foxconn is unlikely to employ 13,000 workers and said the state’s deal with the company may need to be “downsized” as a result.
Nygren suggested that since the state would dole out the majority of tax credits only if the company created jobs, there’s no need to renegotiate the contract.