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JFC starting from scratch in rebuilding Evers’ bloated budget

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — The Legislature’s budget-writing committee today will begin the work of rebuilding Gov. Tony Evers’ bloated budget plan — a $91 billion tax-and-spend document stuffed with political giveaways to his far left base.

Big Spender Evers’ 2021-23 budget bill also is loaded with a record number of “non-fiscal policy items,” and plenty of wasteful fiscal measures. They include everything from “diversity goals for state procurement” to liberal redistricting and voting initiatives.

“Tony Evers’ budget is packed full of big government agenda items to placate his far left base. These kinds of divisive policy proposals — and such big spending at a time when the federal government is dumping billions of dollars on the state — are unconscionable,” said Adam Jarchow, former state representative and president of Empower Wisconsin. “The Legislature is right to rebuild the monstrosity that is Gov. Evers’ budget plan.”

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee intends to toss it all (more than 400 non-fiscal and fiscal proposals) as they put together a budget starting from the base of the current biennial budget — a budget JFC mostly rebuilt the last time around but ultimately was signed by the governor.

Republicans say they have no other choice. It’s an unworkable budget, as JFC Co-Chairman Mark Born wrote this week.

“Before Gov. Evers released his biennial budget, Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairman, Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), and I sent the governor a letter asking him to avoid the mistakes of his first budget. We asked for a responsible plan that ensured the state spent within its means while also investing in priorities,” the Beaver Dam Republican wrote.

“Unfortunately, Gov. Evers repeated the same mistakes of his first budget — spending excessively while also including numerous divisive policy items and more tax increases.”

JFC gets down to work today, following a 10:30 a.m. press conference at the Capitol.

Smashing Records

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has identified 191 non-fiscal policy items — measures not closely related to the state’s fiscal programs — in Evers’ budget bill. That smashes the old record of 150 non-fiscal proposals in the 2001-2003 budget, according to LFB’s records, which go back to the early 1990s. The number has ballooned to three times the historical average. In the current budget, signed in 2019, 71 non-fiscal policy items made the cut.

“Tony Evers’ budget is packed full of big government agenda items to placate his far left base. These kinds of divisive policy proposals — and such big spending at a time when the federal government is dumping billions of dollars on the state — are unconscionable,” said Adam Jarchow, former state representative and president of Empower Wisconsin. “The Legislature is right to rebuild the monstrosity that is Gov. Evers’ budget plan.”

Liberal ‘wish list’

Evers’ budget has been described as a ‘liberal wish list.” Here are just some of the non-fiscal policy items the governor stuck in his budget:

Evers is proposing broad changes to Wisconsin’s criminal justice system, part of his ongoing social justice initiatives, without the benefit of public hearings. Some of the adult sentencing changes include:

  • Extended Supervision Modifications
  • Maximum Sentence Modifications for a Class D Felony
  • Reduction of Mandatory Minimum Sentences
  • Expungement of Criminal Records
  • Immunity for Certain Controlled Substances Offenses

While some of the sentencing reforms have support from Republican lawmakers, the changes should be proposed as separate bills to be debated on the floor of the Legislature, lawmakers say.

As Republicans propose legislation to strengthen voter integrity, Evers’ budget bill goes the other way. His loosening measures include:

  • Automatic Voter Registration
  • Voter Registration Modifications
  • Temporary Identification Cards for Voting — Valid Period
  • Central Counting at County Seat
  • Expanded in-Person Absentee Voting

Evers also is pushing his gun control agenda, again proposing expanded universal background checks and giving broader settlement power to Democrat Attorney General Josh Kaul. Republicans have checked the authority, concerned that Kaul would push the kinds of settlement agreements that made extreme liberal activist groups a fortune during the Obama administration.

Evers, who served for a decade as superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction crammed in all kinds of Woke initiatives into his budget proposal. He proposes:

  • Health Problems Education Programs
  • Climate Change in Model Academic Standards
  • American Indian Studies Required in Curriculum — School Districts

And the governor packed his budget bill with all kinds of regulations, including a spate of new punitive hits on business. He’s pushing a number of measures targeting the environmental cause du jour, PFAS and the family of manmade substances showing up in water systems.

Legal weed and more Medicaid

LFB’s list of non-fiscal items doesn’t include Evers’ initiatives like legalizing marijuana “due to the significant tax ($165.8 million)” projected to come from weed legalization. Nor does it include the governor’s push to crush worker freedom protections, such as his drive to repeal Wisconsin’s right-to-work law and Act 10 — among other Big Labor giveaways.

Per usual, Evers wants Wisconsin to expand Medicaid and take advantage of all that “free” federal money. It’s another move by Evers to grow government through expanded welfare, with the state on the hook for at 10 percent of costs moving forward, Republicans assert.

Evers hasn’t budged on his total $91 billion budget with its $1 billion-plus in tax increases despite the fact that he’s sitting on another $3.2 billion in “free” federal COVID relief funding. His budget would also burn through Wisconsin’s nearly $2 billion budget surplus.

“Legislative Republicans are working hard to craft a responsible budget that reflects the real priorities and needs of the citizens of Wisconsin.” Born and Marklein said last week.

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