By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers wants to spend millions of dollars of the remaining money in the Volkswagen emissions settlement on electric charging stations.
The Democrat could invest the money in new school buses and other state transportation needs, but Green Evers has a Climate Change warrior image to uphold — even at the expense of schools and children.
Evers’ budget proposal directs his Department of Administration to spend the $10 million on grants for electric car charging stations. He wants to use $10 million-plus of the settlement funds to replace state vehicles with clean energy vehicles.
The funding comes from a court-ordered $67 million settlement against Volkswagen for violating the Clean Air Act. The German car maker was required to pay more than $2.9 billion into an Environment Mitigation Trust Fund, with the state of Wisconsin is one of its many recipients.
While the settlement stipulates the funding must be spent on reducing diesel and gasoline emissions, Evers has options. He could have marked the money for replacing school buses, shuttle buses, railroad freight switchers or airport ground support equipment.
Other states have.
South Carolina’s governor recently announced the purchase of 235 school buses to help replace the state’s aging fleet. Earlier, the state used a portion of its Volkswagen settlement funds to buy 78 school buses.
Cherie Hime, executive director of the Wisconsin School Bus Association, said the organization in 2019 asked the governor to allocate some of the VW settlement to purchase school buses that would dramatically cut down on emissions.
“This is an opportunity to get cleaner buses that not only have a direct impact on the environment but on the children who ride the bus.” Hime said. “We didn’t get anything on that.”
They went to the Department of Revenue and received the same response: Silence.
“We haven’t heard anything. It’s been another disappointment,” Hime said.
The Department of Transportation did establish an $18 million public transit grant program to replace aging city buses.
But it seems Evers is set on his electric car charger and green fleet plan. He was so consumed by the idea, he used his veto pen in 2019 to change what was supposed to be a $3 million grant program to replace school buses into his $10 million electric vehicle charging station fixation. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling struck down Evers’ veto as unconstitutional.
The governor would not be deterred. He shoved the proposal back into his latest two-year spending plan.
“It would be nice if there was a diversified approach, not just one-sided,” Hime said.