By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers used his partial veto power to make 78 changes to Republican legislators’ version of the state budget before signing it Wednesday. The budget takes effect immediately and Republicans do not have the votes needed to override any of the vetoes.
Here’s a look at some of the most significant revisions and Evers’ explanations:
Evers increased funding for K-12 public schools primarily by raising the per-pupil state-aid amount to $742 in each of the next two fiscal years, up from the $679 and $704 Republicans put in the budget. Evers’ changes will result in net increase of $65 million for schools above the $500 million or so in additional aid that Republicans provided.
Evers wiped out a provision that would have allowed Tesla to open dealerships in Wisconsin. Republicans added the language a day before the state Senate voted to pass the budget to secure key support from Republican state Sen. Chris Kapenga. Evers wrote that he objects to making such a dramatic change so late in the budget process without public debate.
Evers scrapped provisions that would have required the Department of Administration to study security at the state Capitol in consultation with the city of Madison Police Department. Evers said he objects to releasing information about potential security gaps in a public report and the Capitol Police, not city police, handles security at the Capitol. He did direct the Capitol Police to review existing Capitol security plans with input from city police.
Evers erased Republican language that would have limited how much the Wisconsin Department of Transportation can spend on state patrol protection for Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the first black man to hold the post in Wisconsin. Evers wrote that the language undercuts the state patrol’s judgment. He also called the language politically driven and said it was intended to undermine Barnes.
CORRECTIONS MERIT PAY
Evers restored discretionary merit pay for Department of Corrections administrative and central-office employees. Evers said Republican provisions blocking merit pay for DOC workers infringed on the Department of Administration’s authority to administer state employees pay policy, every other state agency can award merit raises and DOC needs every tool to combat a worker shortage.
The governor scratched a plan to spend $5 million to start bids and acquire property for a new prison to replace the aging Green Bay Correctional Institution. Evers wrote that he objects to building a new maximum security prison without more public input.
Evers restored $25 million in funding to pay for new state facilities to replace the Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake juvenile prisons. He diverted $22 million in construction grants for non-state organizations toward a new state facility for juvenile offenders, a change subject to state Building Commission approval. Evers also increased funding to allow for the full $59 million needed to build on to the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison.
The governor eliminated Republican-sponsored language that would have restricted local governments’ authority to regulate quarries. Evers objected to the changes, which his predecessor, Gov. Scott Walker, also had vetoed.
Evers dumped Republican provisions that would have allowed the Department of Transportation to spend up to $2.5 million on a study on tolling and mileage-based fees. Evers said he objects to spending money on another study that will only show that the most effective way to pay for roadwork is to raise the gas tax.
Evers eliminated provisions that would have set up a standard $100-truck-registration fee. The change keeps the state’s current poundage-based tiered registration fees in place. Owners of trucks under 6,000 pounds pay a uniform $100 fee, owners of trucks between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds pay $106 and owners of trucks between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds pay $155. The governor wrote he objects to forcing owners of lighter vehicles to pay the same as heavier trucks that do more damage to the roads.
The governor erased a Republican plan that would have reduced funding to $3 million from a settlement with Volkswagen to help school districts replace buses. Wisconsin was part of multistate settlements in 2016 and 2017 to resolve allegations that Volkswagen used special software in its vehicles to circumvent emissions standards. The state is expected to receive $25 million over the next two years. Evers’ veto restores his original proposal to spend $15 million of that to replace public buses and $10 million on charging stations for electric cars.