Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers Monday directed the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) to submit a formal request to the Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) to release $2 million in already-approved funding for Tribal Assistance Grants.
The grants which are funded by Tribal gaming revenue are being withheld by Republicans from the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Evers said.
The governor’s directive to DOA comes after Republicans on the JFC recently rejected DOA’s original s. 13.10 request to release the full $11 million appropriated in the 2023-25 biennial budget for Tribal Assistance Grants, which would have ensured each of the 11 federally recognized Native Nations in Wisconsin received $1 million in grant funds.
Republicans on the Committee instead voted to withhold any grant funds from being distributed to the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa while distributing $1 million each to the nine other federally recognized Tribes, Evers said.
“Republicans’ vote to exclude these two Native Nations came with no explanation or justification—and despite the source of these funds being Tribal gaming revenue that Tribes generate and pay to the state of Wisconsin,” Evers noted.
“Wisconsin would not be the state we are today without the significant contributions of Indigenous people to our history, culture, economy, and to our future, and our success as a state is inextricably tied to the success of the Native Nations who call this land home,” said Evers.
“The actions by Republicans on Joint Finance to withhold already-approved funds, which are paid for by Tribal gaming revenue, from two Tribes in Wisconsin without any justification or rationale flies in the face of our work to build strong, meaningful government-to-government partnerships with the Native Nations. This is just yet another in a long list of examples of Republicans’ ongoing efforts to obstruct basic functions of government,” Evers added.
According to Evers, the request was submitted under the Committee’s s. 13.10 process to explain that the intent of the Evers Administration is for $1 million to be distributed to each Tribe for the Tribal Assistance Grant Program, which was created in the 2023-25 biennial budget adopted by the Joint Finance Committee, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and signed by Gov. Evers earlier this year.
“My request to Republicans is simple: stop playing politics with the Native Nations in this state and release these funds that are essential for Tribes to provide governmental services to their citizens and communities,” Evers added.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to eight of the Republican members on the JFC and leadership of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior and Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, requesting comment.
The following individuals are on the JFC:
Representative Born (Co-Chair) (R – Beaver Dam)
Senator Marklein (Co-Chair) (R – Spring Green)
Representative Katsma (Vice-Chair) (R – Spring Green)
Senator Stroebel (Vice-Chair) (R – Saukville)
Senator Felzkowski (R – Irma)
Senator Ballweg (R – Markesan)
Senator Testin (R – Stevens Point)
Senator Wimberger (R – Green Bay)
Senator L. Johnson (D – Milwaukee)
Senator Roys (D – Madison)
Representative Zimmerman (R – River Falls)
Representative Rodriguez (R – Oak Creek)
Representative Kurtz (R – Wonewoc)
Representative Dallman (R – Green Lake)
Representative Goyke (D – Milwaukee)
Representative McGuire (D – Kenosha)
In a statement to The Wisconsin Examiner, JFC chairs Marklein and Born said the committee did not release the funds due to dispute over tribal access roads.
“While we respect their autonomy as a tribe, we must also respect the taxpayers who are suffering as a result of the tribes’ decisions. They have prevented access to private properties, levied unreasonable fees on local municipalities, and are causing skyrocketing property taxes all due to their actions,” the lawmakers said.