Gov. Tony Evers must decide what to do with a budget that uses much of a record surplus on tax cuts for the wealthy, makes cuts to the UW System, kills a childcare affordability program, and fails to eliminate an 1849 abortion ban.
Less than 24 hours after the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature sent a proposed state budget bill to Gov. Tony Evers, a coalition of more than a dozen groups implored the governor to veto the GOP spending plan because it would “deepen the divide between the haves and the have-nots, perpetuating systemic racism, and economic inequality that undermine the fabric of our society.”
The coalition is a who’s-who of groups whose requests were ignored or minimized in the bill that passed the state Senate on Wednesday and the Assembly on Thursday. Members include Wisconsin Early Childhood Action Needed (WECAN), Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Voces de la Frontera, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools.
“If you do not veto this budget, we fear that its shortcomings and inadequacies will be detrimental to the democratic values, education opportunities, and public resources that our state sorely needs,” the coalition wrote in a letter released Friday morning. “We implore you, please: don’t give in. Fight like hell for our collective future.”
Evers must decide whether to sign the state budget bill, modify it with partial vetoes, or reject the whole measure and force a summer of negotiations with Republicans who began the budget process by rejecting more than 500 of Evers’ proposals, many impacting the coalition members.
The two-year spending blueprint passed by Republicans uses much of a record $7 billion surplus on tax cuts heavily weighted toward high-income filers. Evers had proposed tax cuts geared toward the middle class, but Republicans rejected his proposal and have used an oft-cited defense to justify their proposed tax cuts for the rich: that the very-wealthy pay more in total tax dollars.
“The goal is to try and keep successful people in Wisconsin no matter what their income,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).
During legislative debate, Republicans turned back amendments from Democrats that would have restored many of their priorities: funding an affordable childcare program, providing BadgerCare to more working families, creating a paid family leave program, and repealing the state’s near-total abortion ban written in 1849 with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
“Republicans sent a clear message to working families that child care doesn’t count,” said Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison). “Not only will they have to answer to the families who lose their child care, but also to employers for whom the workforce crisis is about to get even worse.”
Despite the multi-billion-dollar surplus, Republicans also want to cut state funding for the University of Wisconsin System in order to punish the UW for having programs and positions designed to help students overcome racial and cultural barriers and promote diversity on campuses.
“The state budget that passed today is another symptom of a state that has been gerrymandered into submission,” said Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee).
“Austerity is a political choice made by Republicans in this legislative body, “ said Rep. Kristina Shelton (D-Green Bay). “With a $7 billion budget surplus, we had the opportunity to support kids, families, and teachers through transformational investments. Instead, the Wisconsin GOP chose massive wealth giveaways to the richest among us through a dangerous tax cut.”
If signed, this budget would continue a streak of public school funding that has failed to keep up with inflation since Republicans took control of the Legislature in 2011.
“The GOP budget helps lower the tax burden on all Wisconsinites through a historic tax cut,” claimed Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva). “We are sending the surplus back to its rightful owners – the taxpayers. GOP priorities like transportation, schools, and our local governments will all see significant increases.”
It is a viewpoint not shared by the coalition that sent the Friday letter.
“We understand the political challenges you face,” the groups wrote to Evers. “By vetoing this budget, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to the well-being of our state and its citizens.”
Other members of the coalition include the African American Roundtable, All in Wisconsin, American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin, Leaders Igniting Transformation, the League of Women Voters-Wisconsin, Progress North, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition, Wisconsin Family Child Care Association, and staff of the Wisconsin Public Education Network.
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