By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee say Gov. Tony Evers is only making budget-writing more difficult by refusing to talk to Republican leadership and governing by press release.
This week the state learned it would be receiving $700 million less in COVID-19 relief funds, and the lower allotment may now be distributed over two years instead of one.
“At this point we basically have a press release. A press release is not a plan,” Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) said at a press conference Thursday before the JFC’s executive session. “We’ve been asking for a plan for weeks. We’ve been willing to meet, we’re waiting to meet with the governor to work on this. It would certainly make our budget process easier to have some leadership from the governor.”
Evers has announced — through press releases — that he plans to distribute $600 million of what was expected to be $3.2 billion in federal funding to the state’s small businesses, hit hard in large part by the governor’s excessive lockdown orders. He also plans to spend a half billion dollars on “continued pandemic response,” whatever that may be. Evers announced other targeted spending areas, but has provided few details.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Evers has wide latitude in spending the windfall, and he’s cut the Republican-controlled Legislature out of decision-making entirely.
Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), said Evers’ political intransigence has made a bad situation worse on the budget-writing front.
“With the reduction we’ve heard about this week, it’s even more important that we communicate with the governor, that he share with us what he has in mind,” Marklein said. “I don’t think he’s really willing to meet with us at this point to talk about that … Whether it’s $3.2 billion for $2.5 billion, it’s a big number. It sure would be helpful to this committee if we knew where the governor was going to be allocating that money.