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Evers vetoes Wisconsin legislative oversight of COVID money

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers killed a bill Monday that would have given Republican legislators oversight of Wisconsin’s share of billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds, instead announcing his own plan for distributing the money.

Evers, a Democrat, took the unusual step of vetoing the bill during a news conference at a Milwaukee cafe, holding up the veto for television cameras. The move reflects the growing animosity between the governor and Republican legislative leaders as the pandemic drags on.

The bill would have forced Evers to submit a plan for spending the money to the Legislature’s budget committee and allowed committee members to block initiatives. Republicans control the committee.

Evers said Wisconsin is slated to receive $3.2 billion in federal aid as part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package. Allowing legislative oversight would result in unacceptable delays in getting money to recipients, Evers said.

“One objection . . . could set it back for weeks,” he said during the news conference.

He announced a plan to spent $2.5 billion of the money that calls for $50 million in aid for the tourism industry; $600 million for businesses; $200 million for infrastructure improvements, including expanding broadband access; and $500 million for state pandemic response efforts.

Republicans argued the Legislature should play a role in how the money is spent, just like it did in 2009 when approving how money from the federal stimulus during the Great Recession was spent.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said during debate on the chamber floor last week that Democrats don’t want any transparency or anyone to judge whether the money went to the right recipient until it’s out the door. He warned Republicans would “have no choice but to go to court” if Evers vetoed the bill.

Aides for Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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