Gov. Evers discusses COVID-19 bill, mask order in one-on-one interview
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Governor Tony Evers vetoed a COVID-19 relief bill immediately after it arrived on his desk Friday, Feb. 5,, the first bill to pass the Legislature since April.
Gov. Evers said the bill was not what he agreed to weeks ago with the Senate Republicans.
“That is not a compromise, we had a compromise with almost 25 pieces of legislation that could have been a great starting point,” Evers said to CBS 58.
This week Assembly Republicans added several provisions to the bill Evers called dangerous to the state’s ability to combat COVID-19. Some of those include requiring Evers to get approval from the Legislature before spending federal funds, a ban on closing places of worship during the pandemic, liability protections for businesses and schools, and not requiring employees to get vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, Republicans once again chose to put politics before people, abandoned that compromise and passed a bill they knew I wouldn’t sign,” said Evers.
The governor veto does put some of the state at risk of losing millions in federal funding for those who rely on unemployment benefits. Sunday was the deadline to extend the state’s one-week waiting period.
“People who are on unemployment insurance are going to start losing their extended benefits, this is going to cost them 6.5 million over the next 5 or 6 weeks,” said Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahiue.
The governor said that decision was difficult for him.
“That was hard for me. We needed that to get rid of that one-week waiting period, but at the end of the day it was a bad bill."
Republican leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senator LeMahiue issued a statement calling Evers’ decision a political stunt.
“It is sad that Gov. Evers is playing games at the expense of disadvantaged people by putting $50 million in food assistance benefits in jeopardy should the court eliminate the unlawful public health emergency,” they said in a joint statement.
FUTURE OF MASKS ORDERS
Gov. Evers' veto comes a day after he issued another mask mandate after Assembly Republicans voted to end his order.
Evers tells CBS 58 he plans to continue to issue mask mandates if Republicans continue to threaten his mitigation effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“You got it, absolutely,” he said in response to his strategy to keep the mask requirement in place.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court could also repeal Evers' mask mandate, which would require him to get approval from the Legislature before issuing emergency orders.
The high court could also rule Evers doesn’t have to, which would leave it up to lawmakers to strike down his orders related to the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said the fate of the mask mandate should be left up to the justices on the court.
A conservative law firm, who’s been involved in challenging Evers' emergency power, called his actions “a constitutional crisis.”