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Republicans to scrap Evers’ priorities, start writing budget (UPDATE)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Hundreds of Gov. Tony Evers’ priorities, including legalizing marijuana and raising $1 billion in taxes, were going to be killed on Thursday by the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee as it begins the process of writing the next state budget.

Republicans are essentially scrapping the Democratic governor’s entire two-year spending proposal and instead building off the current budget, which the GOP-controlled Legislature passed two years ago without a single Democratic vote and Evers signed into law.

The Joint Finance Committee will vote to remove nearly 400 of Evers’ proposals. On the issues that remain, Republicans will build the budget using not what Evers wanted but instead on what is in current law.

The proposals Republicans are killing would have brought in $3.4 billion to the state, mostly through higher taxes on capital gains and manufacturers, and by accepting additional federal Medicaid money. That alone would have saved the state $1.6 billion, when including federal money that would have come to Wisconsin.

Republicans for years have resisted accepting full Medicaid expansion. Evers’ plan would allow about 90,000 people to receive BadgerCare Plus, a step Democrats have long pushed for only to be blocked by Republicans.

Other proposals that Republicans planned to kill included legalizing and taxing marijuana; raising the minimum wage to $10.15 per hour by 2024; restoring public workers’ collective-bargaining rights that were lost in the Act 10 law; suspending enrollment in the private school-voucher program; and setting up a so-called red-flag law that would allow guns to be seized from people deemed by courts to be a danger.

Republicans say the budget they will write will most likely include a tax cut of some sort, but they haven’t given details. They are also calling on Evers to give them more details about how he intends to spend $3.2 billion in one-time federal stimulus money coming to the state. Evers has revealed some details, but not all of his intentions for the money, which is solely under his discretion to spend.

The meeting of the budget committee on Thursday is the first in which it takes votes on the two-year spending plan that runs from July through mid-2023. The full Legislature will likely vote on the budget in June or July, and then Evers can make significant changes with his broad veto power.

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