MADISON, Wis. (WMDX) – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed the 2023-25 state budget into law Wednesday after it passed the Assembly and Senate without any Democrats voting for it.
Evers used 51 line-item vetoes in passing the budget, significantly changing parts of the Republican-authored budget bill.
In signing the bill, Evers said that he was “providing a second chance” for the state’s legislative houses to fund programs for education, child care, and expansion of broadband internet.
“I am using my broad, constitutional veto authority to ensure ample state resources are readily available for the Legislature to complete their work on this budget—to do the right thing, to rise to meet this moment of historic opportunity and responsibility, and to focus on passing real solutions for the urgent challenges facing our state,” Evers said. “While Republicans in the Legislature might be perfectly comfortable abdicating the duty we share with the historic opportunity and responsibility before us in pursuit of political favor and partisan praise, I am not.”
Evers touted the new shared revenue formula, funding for K-12 education, and more money for infrastructure projects. He also highlighted programs for agriculture, clean water access, and transportation in the budget.
Using the governor’s line-item veto power, Evers made dozens of changes to the budget bill approved by Republicans. He reduced Republican tax cuts by leaving in place cuts to the bottom two income brackets, but removing cuts from higher income brackets. The partial vetoes slashed the Republican income tax cut plan from $3.5 billion to $175 million. By removing select wording from several lines of the budget, Evers also set an increase of $325 per student per year for the levy cap for public schools for the next 402 years, through 2425.
The UW System will still lose $32 million in funding for its diversity, equity and inclusion programming, but Evers was able to protect 188 full-time positions that would have been eliminated by the submitted budget. Another line-item veto turned a $15 million loan program for child care programs into a grant program, far short of the more than $300 million the governor sought to stabilize the industry.
Other line-item vetoes converted loan funding to grants for low-income housing, blocked a plan to consolidate a 2-year UW Campus with a technical college, cut funding for the Republican National Convention in 2024 by 90%, removed language barring using Medicaid to pay for puberty-blocking drugs or gender-confirming surgeries, and eliminated provisions that Wisconsin Eye could charge for access if it raised enough money to match state aid.
“While Republicans in the Legislature might be perfectly comfortable abdicating the duty we share with the historic opportunity and responsibility before us in pursuit of political favor and partisan praise, I am not.”Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers
In a statement, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said that the vetoes would lead to higher property taxes and expressed disappointment over the governor’s decision to eliminate tax cuts for the highest-earners in the state. Vos said on WISN Thursday morning that Republicans would challenge the governor’s decisions.
Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson said that he wishes Evers would have vetoed the entire budget, calling the Republican-authored bill “awful” in a post on Twitter.
“The increase to the unaccountable private school voucher program will do immeasurable harm to our public schools in the long run,” Larson said.
Larson added that he supported the elimination of tax cuts for wealthier residents, calling Wisconsin’s tax structure “regressive” while highlighting that many middle-income earners are lumped in with those with higher incomes in the state’s tax brackets.
Public education groups criticized the budget for not going far enough to fund public schools. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards said that the budget helped some districts, but didn’t think that it would keep pace with inflation. A release for the Wisconsin Public Education Network said that the budget “squanders” opportunities for funding education given the state surplus.
“This budget… deliberately maintains a funding system that does real harm to kids while simultaneously delivering massive, permanent giveaways to private voucher schools and ‘independent’ charter schools,” the statement said. “These schools are now guaranteed more direct aid than most public schools receive from the state, and more than many are even allowed to spend per pupil.”
State Superintendent Jill Underly echoed other public school advocates by saying the increase in funding is appreciated, but called the budget measures an “initial step” towards investing in public schools.
“We continue to need answers to the growing shortages and inequities caused by a lack of mental health, nutrition, and special education funding, as well as the imbalances caused by publicly funding two education systems, and only one of which really serves all kids,” Underly said. “I hope we can rectify that in future budgets.”
Groups supporting child care workers in Wisconsin, who rallied at the state capitol last month seeking the continuation of a federal program, Child Care Counts, said the budget doesn’t do enough to fund child care providers in the state. Evers’ partial vetoes converted $15 million in a loan program to grants, but the number is far short of the $340 million Democrats proposed for the budget via amendments.
Organizers of the rally said that about a quarter of child care providers across Wisconsin would be closing their doors, with others increasing tuition rates, without the program.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that according to Gov. Evers, the program sent $378 million to 4,345 child care providers, which helped to pay for about 22,000 workers and care for about 113,000 children.
“Folks want to go to work, they want to take care of their families,” State Sen. Minority Leader Melisa Agard said at the rally in June. “But accessing child care… is a barrier for many people in Wisconsin.”
Republicans who control both houses of the state legislature, including the committee that writes the budget, lauded the budget for funding education and maintaining state programs while also returning money to taxpayers. Democrats said the budget missed opportunities to use the state’s $7 billion surplus to further increase education spending and to fund the Office of School Safety and Child Care Counts, federal programs that are set to expire.
Democrats proposed 13 amendments to the budget bill in a last-ditch effort to fund some of the governor’s proposals, but all failed along party lines. The Wisconsin Assembly passed the state spending plan for the next two years along party lines, 63-34. The Senate passed the budget bill 20-13