Gov. Evers vetoes bill that would have required legislative oversight over COVID relief funds

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is vetoing a bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that would have given them more control over how federal COVID relief money is spent.

Republicans in both chambers of Wisconsin’s legislature passed the bill last week. The proposal would have given the Republican-controlled state budget committee more control over those federal funds by requiring Evers to send a plan to expenditures to the Joint Finance Committee for a 14-day review. Since Republicans have the majority in the committee, that would have effectively given them veto power over the governor’s plan.

Current law gives Gov. Evers control over receiving and allocating federal funding. Announcing the veto Monday, the governor said there was no time to waste in getting the funding out to businesses and municipalities that needed it.

“I’m going to veto Senate Bill 183 to make sure once we get the guidance we need from the federal government, we can work to get these funds out quickly, to make sure they don’t get tied up in some political fight in the legislature,” Gov. Evers said.

The legislature does not have the votes necessary to override the governor’s veto, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last week on the Assembly floor that “we will have no choice but to go to court” if the governor vetoed the proposal.

“I’ve said this time and time again, I don’t care who gets the credit,” Gov. Evers said. “I just want to get this done and get money into pockets, and make sure our state bounces back better than before. We’ve got a plan to do that and we’re not going to let politics get in the way.”

The State of Wisconsin and its counties and municipalities are getting about $5.7 billion total from President Joe Biden’s relief package. About $3.2 billion will be allocated to the state government.

The governor’s office says his plan includes $2.5 billion in the state’s economy, including $50 million for the tourism industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic and $600 million to support local businesses. He’s also proposing $200 million in infrastructure with a focus on expanding broadband Internet accesss and $500 million for continued statewide pandemic response efforts.