Gov. Tony Evers talks a lot about cooperation and compromise, but he has no intention of giving up an inch of his precious power.
Two-faced Tony vows to veto a GOP bill that would end the Democrat’s unilateral control over spending $5.5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Republicans last week introduced The Truth in Spending Act that will give the Legislature more control over the money.
“Billions of taxpayer dollars should not be in the hands of a single person. We’re simply asking that the Governor include others in the decision-making process,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said. “Not only will this legislation allow for more public input, it will also provide a new level of transparency.”
Transparency has been a big problem. Even the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has said the Evers administration has been slow to release information on the $2 billion in federal COVID relief from last year.
Evers is tightly holding on to the power afforded to him in the federal spending act. His flack says the governor doesn’t have time for the people’s representatives.
“Wisconsinites can’t afford to wait around for the Legislature, and that’s why the governor will continue working to save lives, put shots in arms, and get resources and relief out as fast as he can, just as he has since the beginning of this pandemic,” Britt Cudaback, spokeswoman for Evers, tweeted last week.
Evers has grown quite comfortable with the emergency powers he has used to abuse over the run of the pandemic. Though he has said otherwise, the governor has shown time and time again that he’s not interested in working with the Republican-led Legislature — to the point of making the state miss out on federal unemployment and food assistance funding.
After saying for months that Republicans could vote to stop his endless emergency orders and mask mandates, Evers ignored the Legislature’s resolution doing so and issued another emergency order.
In the case of the latest round of federal funding, Republican lawmakers say their legislation is modeled closely after the language that Democrats approved in 2009 to allow the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to provide oversight in the distribution of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
To answer Evers’ apparent complaint, they say flexibilities have been added to make the approvals more expeditious through the committee’s passive review process.
Republicans certainly aren’t asking Evers for anything out of the ordinary. The power of the purse, after all, is the domain of the legislative branch.
West Virginia, Arkansas, Colorado and Kansas have recently passed or pursued legislation that gives some legislative oversight over COVID relief funds, according to legislative Republicans. In 12 states, the executive branch may receive but cannot spend unanticipated federal funds without prior authorization or subsequent legislative approval. In six states, the executive and legislative branch sit together on a board to share decision-making on unanticipated federal funds.
“Oversight of tax dollars is an essential function of the Legislative Branch. Without it, we risk losing important considerations that come from elected representatives and residents from around the state,” said Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostberg). “Our oversight plan ensures quick delivery of needed relief while balancing the long-term health of our people and our future.”
But Evers doesn’t care about that. What he cares about is his precious emergency powers, and he will do whatever it takes to hang on to them