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Legislative Update


MJS: GOP COVID-19 legislation would allow state budget committee to cut spending, including aid to schools

by | Apr 8, 2020 | Legislative Update Blog, State Budget, State Issue | 0 comments

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that state legislation being drafted by majority GOP lawmakers would include a provision giving the Joint Finance Committee unilateral authority to cut state spending, including funding to schools, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it could have on the State’s coffers. 

“The new measure is aimed at responding to the coronavirus outbreak and the economic problems that come with it. The legislation would suspend a one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits, and allow the state to claim an extra $150 million every three months in federal aid for the state’s Medicaid programs such as BadgerCare Plus.  

“But the legislation also includes a provision that would allow the Legislature’s GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee to reduce state spending — including aid to schools — on its own. Normally, the Legislature and governor have to agree on any cuts.

“If the governor approved the legislation, he would have the ability to veto any spending cuts made by the committee. But the committee could easily override his vetoes because Republicans have a 12-4 majority on the committee — more than the two-thirds margin needed to override vetoes.

“Evers said he would block their plan. But that will leave in limbo the provisions he and Republicans support.” …

“Republicans want more control of spending because state tax collections are expected to quickly dry up as much of the economy shuts down. They want to be able to determine where to restrain spending without having to negotiate with Evers.

“The power they are seeking is vast. It would allow them to reduce aid to schools, local governments and University of Wisconsin campuses. They could also scale back programs aimed at helping the poor and those who have trouble getting health-care coverage.

“Republicans have not said where they might want to make cuts, but have signaled they want flexibility because of how bad the economy could turn amid the pandemic.

“This week Rep. John Nygren, a Republican from Marinette who is co-chairman of the finance committee, said the state may need to freeze spending after July 1.”

Governor Evers had previously put forward two legislative proposals which did not garner support from GOP leaders.   We will continue to monitor this situation as the Governor and legislative leaders negotiate the state’s COVID-19 response legislation. Stay tuned…

See the full story (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel): Republicans seeking broad authority to cut aid to schools and state programs as part of coronavirus response

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