MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers called the Republican-controlled Legislature into a special session Tuesday to consider an increase in funding for public schools and higher education. Meanwhile, the Assembly planned to vote on a veto override to end enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 a week, which are set to expire in early September.
In a video message Monday, Gov. Evers applauded the bipartisan budget he recently signed into law but said the spending plan did not go far enough.
The governor called on Republicans to approve $550 million for K-12 and higher education during Tuesday's extraordinary session. Here's how the funding would be allocated:
- $240 million per-pupil aid for K-12 schools
- $200 million for special education
- $110 million for higher education, including the UW System
“If they have time to come into special session to play politics, then they have time to come in and do what's best for our kids,” Evers said in the recorded video.
The Republican-authored state budget increased K-12 funding by $128 million, which was far less than the $1.6 billion the governor had proposed. At a budget signing ceremony earlier this month, Gov. Evers announced an additional $100 million in new funding for public schools on top of what the biennial budget had already invested.
Republican lawmakers were already planning to meet on Tuesday for an extraordinary session to attempt to override Gov. Evers' veto of a bill that would have ended a $300 unemployment benefit earlier than scheduled on Sept. 6.
Last month, all Republicans voted in favor of the bill with all Democrats opposed.
The enhanced benefit is on top of Wisconsin's $370 unemployment benefit and was intended to help those who were unemployed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Republicans and business leaders argue the additional benefit has only worsened the state's worker shortage problem.
Meanwhile, Gov. Evers said nothing supports that claim. In his veto message, the governor said Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 3.9% in May, which was nearly two points lower than the national average.
So far, more than two dozen states have ended the extra payment early.
Neither side of the aisle is likely to make much progress, if any, in their differing motivations for meeting over the summer.
Though lawmakers are required to gavel into a special session, they are not required to debate or take a vote. So far, Republican leaders have ignored several of the special sessions called by Gov. Evers since 2019.
As for an attempted veto override, for it to be successful, it must pass both the state Assembly and Senate with a two-thirds majority.
Republicans hold a 61-38 majority in the Assembly, which means 66 votes would be needed in favor of an override if all members are present. That means at least five Democrats would have to switch sides, which likely will not happen.
The Senate was not scheduled to be in session this week.