MADISON — The co-chair’s of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee have a simple message for Gov. Tony Evers: Spend the federal money first.
The geniuses in congress thought it would be a good idea to give Evers control over $3.2 billion in federal stimulus funding. It’s part of President Joe Biden’s massive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. States and local governments get a cut of some $350 billion of the COVID relief package. Governors for the most part — not Legislatures — decide how to use it.
“We are on the starting line of the legislature’s work on the state budget, but we do not know how – or when – the Governor will allocate the massive amount of Federal funding available to Wisconsin in the most recent stimulus plan,” state Sen. Marklein (R-Spring Green) said Wednesday in a statement.
Marklein and fellow JFC co-chair, Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) unveiled the Responsible Stimulus plan, a package of bills detailing how the Republican-controlled Legislature wants to spend the federal funds. The finance committee announced its plan to hold a public hearing on the bills and vote on them following the hearing.
With so much federal funding in the offing, Republican lawmakers want to target the money where it will have the most meaningful impact. And they want Evers to use federal funding before asking state taxpayers to pick up the tab for state budget COVID-response initiatives and programs.
“We cannot ask state taxpayers to foot the bill if there is Federal cash available to us that could pay for our priorities. These are all tax dollars, paid for by taxpayers. We need to spend them wisely,” Marklein said. “The Responsible Stimulus plan does that. It invests in people. It pays for infrastructure like local roads and broadband to help us recover. It will boost our economy.”
It is likely to go nowhere with a tax-and-spend governor who doesn’t appear willing to rein in his $91 billion biennial spending plan. Evers already has vetoed a Republican bill that would have given the Legislature oversight over the executive branch’s spending of the federal funds.
But Republican leaders say they will fight the good fight.
“The people of Wisconsin deserve to have their voices heard through their elected Representatives and Senators on how all of this federal money is spent,” Born said. “As I’ve said before, this money should not be unilaterally allocated by one person. Republicans in the legislature have put together a package of bills that truly reflect the priorities of the people of Wisconsin and the Governor should work with us to make these bills a reality.”