There are times when even the most genial of elected officials need to show that behind the smile is resolve, determination, and political spine. That moment is approaching for Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers as the Republican-controlled legislature inches its way to completing the biennial budget.
Once that document reaches the Governor’s desk, there is but one way to deal with it. No line-item veto’s this time, or pining about what was hoped for when it was first introduced earlier this year, what the citizenry needs, but what they now must accept. Given what has transpired this budget cycle such reactions are not acceptable. Given how the majority party in the statehouse handled the array of issues presented to them in the budget Evers has only one path to take.
He must veto the entire measure and send it back to the legislators with a stern note attached. Plan to spend the summer in Madison doing the people’s business.
The policy reasons for such a move by Evers have made headlines for weeks. When presented with the need for the expansion of Medicaid, and tapping into federal funds the Republicans rolled their eyes and tossed the matter away. The health care and long-term medical services for Wisconsinites, however, must not be treated in so cavalier a fashion. Let us not forget that state taxpayers absolutely deserve to have their fair share of federal tax dollars returned so as to use them in accordance with the services our citizens require. $1.6 billion in federal funding should not be discarded for partisan reasons.
When asked to ensure that federal dollars to the tune of $2.3 billion for public schools could be accessed the Republicans used a shell game to provide more state aid but in the form of lower tax levies without providing the additional spending for our cash-strapped schools. The Governor requested $1.6 billion for education funding, but the Republicans saw fit to provide roughly 1/10th of the package. As such, there are 421 reasons (school districts) with a massive statewide constituency, that underscores as to why the behavior of the budget-writers was so harmful with this one issue, thus necessitating a veto.
The absolute requirement for broadband expansion, and the funding for it, has no middle squishy ground upon which to stand. Evers made it clear that the digital divide in this state must be closed. Thus, he requested $200 million for this project, but the GOP Joint Finance Committee was only able to find $125 million. Even what Evers proposed is but a small amount of what will be required to address full broadband connectivity, so to not have it accepted by the committee is too tough a pill to swallow. There are an estimated 400,000 residents who do not have broadband, and the majority reside in rural red counties. The Governor can demonstrate he works for all citizens by showcasing this issue as another reason to veto the budget.
The lack of any regard by Republicans for the needs of redistricting reform has created an electoral stranglehold in the legislative branch. But that does not preclude the needs of the citizenry. It is very important that the people be properly reflected in this budget. While Assembly Republicans elected Robin Vos to the chair of Speaker, that does not make him the governor or the final arbiter on policy.
Only Tony Evers was elected by a statewide vote, and now is the time to show his political mettle and steadfastness with the people of this state. He more than did his share of compromising in the 2019 budget process and was rewarded with even more partisan showmanship from Republicans in this years’ process. If anything over the past weeks the JFC has proven Will Rogers to be correct. “There are men running governments who shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches.”
Therefore, Governor Tony Evers must veto this budget and demand, on behalf of the people, that the summertime is spent by legislative Republicans meeting the needs of the ‘folks back home’.
And so it goes.