Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

Governor’s plan had investments in schools, Republican plan had none

Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the Republican plan to provide $250 million in personal income tax relief Wednesday, adding he is ready to work on a compromise but increasing public school funding and reducing property taxes has to be part of the package.

“We do not have to choose between funding for our kids and our schools and providing property tax relief. We can and should do both,” Evers said. “I am ready and willing to work across the aisle to find a compromise that will get to two-thirds funding (for education) while still providing tax relief and reducing our state debt.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, followed through on a statement he made Thursday, the last day the Assembly met for the current session, to reconvene the Assembly to attempt an override veto if Evers vetoed the GOP-supported proposal.

“The regular session of the state Assembly has concluded,” Vos said in a statement. “We will likely return in May to attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes.”

The showdown over how to spend an unanticipated budget surplus has split Republicans and Democrats since it was discovered last month.

Vos added that Evers had ample opportunity to meet with him and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

“While the governor says he wants to work with the legislature, his actions prove otherwise,” Vos said. “He had every chance to discuss his spending plan over the last few weeks, including during the meeting I had with him the day before he announced the special session on education.

In vetoing Senate Bill 821, surrounded by lawmakers and faculty at Lincoln Elementary School in Wauwatosa, Evers said he was open to an income tax cut and paying down state debt, options included in the GOP-backed bill he vetoed. 

“I am hopeful Republican and Democratic leadership in the Legislature will come to the table to get this done for the people of our state,” Evers said.

Besides a $250 million personal income tax cut for low- to middle-income earners, the Republican proposal also includes a $100 million down payment on state debt and roughly $45 million in property tax for manufacturers.

In contrast, the governor’s plan would spend $250 million toward school-based mental health services and toward students with disabilities. An additional $10 million would be invested in rural districts, specifically through rural sparsity aid. The governor’s plan includes $130 million in property tax relief by being distributed to schools through the equalization formula.

Evers blamed politics for the failure of Republicans to include school funding in their proposal.

“Look, I get it. Republicans are more concerned about the perception of giving a Democratic governor a win than getting things done,” Evers said. “Politics plain and simple.”

Fitzgerald said that while he was disappointed in the governor’s actions, “I’m not surprised.”

“This is the second income tax cut he’s vetoed as governor,” Fitzgerald said. “His budget proposal last summer included over $1 billion in tax hikes. Republicans in the Legislature will continue to hold the line against his far-left agenda.”