State Republicans push for more control of federal Covid-19 dollars as Wisconsin prepares to receive $5.7B in aid

MADISON, Wis. — Republicans on a state legislature committee voted Wednesday to push through a bill that would give Wisconsin lawmakers more control over the spending of federal Covid-19 relief dollars.

The move comes the same day the U.S. House of Representatives voted a second time on a $1.9 trillion relief bill that would send Wisconsin governments about $5.7 billion in federal aid, including $3.2 billion for the state government.

Current Wisconsin law gives the governor control over receiving and allotting federal funding. The bill, introduced by GOP legislative leaders including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate leader Devin LeMahieu, would require Gov. Tony Evers to send a plan for expenditures to the Joint Finance committee for a 14-day passive review. The bill would only apply to pandemic relief dollars related to Covid-19, and has an end date of June 30, 2022.

A spokesperson for Gov. Evers confirmed Wednesday the governor plans to veto the bill in its current form should it pass the state Senate and Assembly, and said in a statement last week that Republicans had waited 290 days before sending a second Covid-related bill to the governor’s desk. A review from WisPolitics found the Wisconsin legislature had been the least active in full-time state legislatures during the pandemic.

“Wisconsinites can’t afford to wait around for the Legislature, and that’s why the governor will continue working to save lives, put shots in arms, and get resources and relief out as fast as he can, just as he has since the beginning of this pandemic,” Britt Cudaback said.

Republican Rep. Mark Born, who co-chairs the Joint Finance committee, said while they haven’t started broad caucus discussions yet on budget goals, Covid-19 relief funds coming from the federal government would “certainly” be part of the discussion.

“It’s not blazing a trail, it’s not something that’s a crazy new idea. This is being done in other states,” Born noted.

“We feel it’s important to have legislative input into the process, to give our say,” Senate majority leader Devin LeMahieu said during the committee meeting. “To represent our areas of the state, our constituents, and give that oversight.”