By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Assembly Democrats could have taken a step toward fixing perhaps the biggest challenge facing Wisconsin’s economy. Instead, they stood by “Gov. Veto” and the left’s pursuit of expanded government dependency.
The Republicans’ effort to override Evers’ veto of a bill that would have ended the $300 weekly federal pandemic unemployment bonus paid to jobless Wisconsinites failed (59-37), despite the GOP’s nearly veto-proof majority in the Assembly.
They needed a supermajority and they missed by a handful of votes.
Democrats defended Gov. Tony Evers’ veto, as small businesses across the state beg the governor to end a generous federal subsidy that is, at least in part, keeping jobless Wisconsinites out of the job market.
“It is regrettable that not a single Democrat was willing to do the one thing that would have had an immediate impact on our state’s workforce shortage. As a result, many Wisconsin businesses will continue to struggle with what may very well become an extinction-level problem,” said Scott Manley, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) Executive Vice President of Government Relations following the session that left Republicans five votes shy of the supermajority needed to kill Evers’ veto.
In a kind of Freudian slip, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) referred to Evers as “Gov. Veto.” It was an apt descriptor for a liberal governor who is at open war with the Republicans who control the Legislature and anything resembling conservative, fiscally prudent legislation.
Evers and his fellow Democrats have insisted there is no evidence to connect Wisconsin’s severe worker shortage with the “free” bonus unemployment cash. Beyond a raft of evidence from the Federal Reserve and other economic experts, it doesn’t take a genius to see the connection.
“If you pay people over $17 an hour tax-free to stay home and not work, there are going to be fewer people working,” Vos said at a press conference before Tuesday’s extraordinary session. “It’s not rocket science.”
Republican lawmakers acknowledge ending the bonus payment — as two-dozen other states have done — is not a “silver bullet.” But taking away a disincentive to re-enter an extremely competitive job market can only help. The Evers administration also has been lax in enforcing job search requirements, only compounding the problem, Republican leaders say.
Their offices have been inundated with communications from employers begging for help. Literally.
“The one constant is that they could hire people tomorrow and they could hire a lot, but they just don’t have the available workforce and government is making it worse,” said Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna).
The federal benefit is set to expire in early September. Evers could have done away with it months ago. Vos said the Democrats’ answer is to “throw a bunch of ‘free money’” at the problem. Tuesday’s vote was a showcase of two distinctly different philosophies on governance.
“We believe we should reward people who go to work,” the speaker said. “If you go to work and you’re able to support yourself, that’s the American Dream. The Democrats’ vision is to say we want more people dependent on government because it’s better to stay at home and let someone else support your family than support yourself.”
In other business, Republicans pushed aside Evers’ call for a special session to come up with a half-billion dollars more in education funding just a few weeks after he signed a budget bill with record education spending.
“The GOP secured nearly $18 Billion for K-12 schools. @GovEvers signed our budget w/ historic funding. Now he wants more. His Special Session is a farce,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) tweeted Tuesday.
The GOP secured nearly $18 Billion for K-12 schools. @GovEvers signed our budget w/ historic funding. Now he wants more. His Special Session is a farce.
The GOP captured federal $$, achieved 2/3rds funding & raised Special Ed. WI SCHOOLS ARE FULLY FUNDED.
Some perspective: pic.twitter.com/c45F6CQGDp
— Sen. Devin LeMahieu (@SenatorDevin) July 27, 2021