Response to Evers budget vetoes centered on tax cut, education changes

NOW: Response to Evers budget vetoes centered on tax cut, education changes

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Using his power to reshape the Wisconsin budget by eliminating certain words and numbers, Gov. Tony Evers guaranteed annual funding increases for public education for the next 402 years, and he rejected most of the tax cut the Republican-controlled legislature passed last month.

Evers issued a total of 51 partial vetoes Wednesday while signing a two-year state budget that every Democratic member of the legislature voted against. 

Much of the reaction to Evers' budget action focused on the guaranteed school funding and changes to tax policy.

On education, Evers rearranged language that increased school districts' revenue limits by $325 per student in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years.

By removing some of those numbers, the Evers administration locked in that $325 per pupil increase through 2425:

By removing some of the language (red), Gov. Tony Evers locked in a public school funding increase of $325 per student every year through 2425.

Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), a co-chair on the Joint Finance Committee, which re-wrote the budget Evers first submitted in February, accused Evers of acting irresponsibly by guaranteeing funding increases for the next four centuries.

"Who knows what it's gonna look like 100, 200 years from now?" Born said in an interview. "To say that he's funding an annual increase in school funding every year for 400 years with this veto is a silly gimmick by this governor."

Despite his frustration, Born said it was unlikely Republicans would be able to sway any Assembly Democratics to support a push to override any vetoes, which would be necessary because Republicans are short of a two-thirds majority in that chamber.

Vincent Lyles, executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds, an education advocacy group tied to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, said he appreciated the long-term commitment to school funding.

"Any time you have consistency, any time you have something you can count on, it's a plus," Lyles said. "You can plan around that kind of consistency."

Lyles said he was disappointed, however, by the lack of support for child care programs in the final budget.

Evers used a partial veto to steer $15 million toward grants for child care centers through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 

Lyles noted it was a far cry from the $300 million Evers had proposed to make permanent the Child Care Counts program, which launched during the COVID-19 pandemic using federal aid. Republicans removed that proposal, and they rejected Democratic efforts to restore that funding during the final days of the budget process.

Lyles said a lack of investment would lead to daycare centers closing, and he worried it could lead to skyrocketing costs driving more parents to quit their jobs.

"There are gonna be some of those parents who work in some of those existing locations, whether it's manufacturing or the service industry, who will have to step out of the economy," Lyles said. "Because they've now gotta take care of their kids."

On tax cuts, Evers eliminated cuts for two of the state's four tax brackets. The vetoes removed cuts on any income over $25,520, which is the upper limit of the second tax bracket. 

Regardless of their income, taxpayers will still see cuts, but they'll be much more modest since the cuts will only apply to the first $25,520 of one's income, whether it's $50,000 or $500,000. 

"[Republicans'] plan is focused heavily on cuts benefiting the wealthiest individuals in our state," Evers wrote in his veto message. "Roughly one-half of their proposed tax cut would go to filers with incomes above $200,000."

Born defended the full cuts, which added up to $3.5 billion. Evers' veto returned $2.7 billion of that amount to the state's coffers.

"That's really disappointing, to see all of that money that was sent to Madison by the taxpayers staying here," Born said. "Rather than being returned to the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin."

Evers had previously signaled he'd veto the entire budget -- something no Wisconsin governor has done under the current partial veto system, which dates back to 1931 -- over GOP lawmakers cutting the University of Wisconsin System budget by $32 million. 

In the end, Evers said he was satisfied by lawmakers allowing for the UW System to reclaim that money by making its case to the Joint Finance Committee.

Evers also used his veto power to restore 188 positions related to diversity, equity and inclusion that had been eliminated in the GOP budget. 

"We thank Governor Evers for his continued support of education in Wisconsin," UW System Spokesperson Mark Pitsch said in a statement. "Supporting student success through state support of affordability and access will continue to be a priority of the UW System as we work with the Executive and Legislative branches."

Born said he was open to restoring the $32 million in UW funding, as long as the system presented a case for how that money would go toward workforce development efforts instead of diversity initiatives.

"I think those discussions will continue this summer, and probably into early fall," Born said. "To see what sort of things the UW can offer to focus on workforce and things that are important to the people of Wisconsin, and stop focusing on things that are so divisive."

When asked why lawmakers rejected funding for a new engineering building on the UW Madison campus if workforce development was their priority, Born said he was open to providing that funding at a later, unspecified date.

"That can be, certainly, part of a future package," Born said.

Evers' decision to not issue an outright veto upset at least some progressives, including State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee)

"His supporters, myself among them, fought hard to get him re-elected," Larson tweeted. "And it is frustrating to see so many of our priorities, especially on public ed, dismissed."

In a joint statement, the Wisconsin Public Education Network and Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools said Evers' partial veto didn't do enough to help public schools, citing a modest increase in special education support and a substantial per student aid increase for voucher schools.

"It’s long past time to hold the state accountable for its persistent refusal to meet its constitutional obligation to the students attending our public schools," the statement said. "If lawmakers refuse to do their jobs, it’s time to call on the courts to force them to do so."

Share this article: