MADISON, Wis. — Lawmakers on the Wisconsin Legislature’s budget-writing committee took their first votes Tuesday on this biennium’s spending plan and, in doing so, stripped out hundreds of Democrat Gov. Tony Evers’ proposals in the process.

Republicans, who control the Joint Committee on Finance, removed 545 items with just a single omnibus vote.

During the last budget cycle, 391 items were taken out on the first day of votes, according to Democrats who were upset by the procedural maneuver used Tuesday.

What You Need To Know

  • The GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee removed 545 items from Democrat Gov. Tony Evers' state budget proposal during a meeting held Tuesday
  • Republicans insist many of those priorities were policy driven and do not belong in the budget 
  • Democrats argue several of the items removed have fiscal implications

“No one is coming to save us but us, and yet you guys have your head in the sand saying ‘It’s business as usual in the Legislature,’” State Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said. “‘What we’ve been doing is fine, and we’re going to repeat it the same way we did it in 2021 and the same way we did it in 2019.’ It’s not working.”

Ranking member State Rep. Evan Goyke raises objections ahead of Tuesday's vote. (Spectrum News 1/Mandy Hague)

“Let’s do that in just a few minutes,” State Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, who co-chairs the committee, responded. “We are going to reject both this amendment and the massive expansion of government and reckless spending in this governor’s budget by removing a number of items very shortly.”

This is the third budget Gov. Evers has proposed since he took office in 2019. Among his ideas on the chopping block; a new paid family leave program, expansion of Medicaid, limits on the state’s school voucher program, funding for upgrades to the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium, and marijuana legalization.

“To strip the governor’s budget back to base, without a shadow of a doubt, removes the very things our constituents asked for,” State Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, said in opposition to the action by Republicans.

“More government, more spending, more welfare, smoke more weed, yeah, our approaches are going to be different,” State Rep. Born rebutted. “It’s going to be a budget that’s made for Wisconsin.”

Committee co-chair State Rep. Mark Born offers his rebuttal during Tuesday's meeting. (Spectrum News 1/Mandy Hague)

Though the move by Republicans was expected, Democrats expressed their disappointment over a lack of item-by-item debate and had to raise their objections more broadly instead.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen is Republicans unwilling to even consider these ideas,” State Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, said during a press conference ahead of Tuesday's vote. “They are more interested in scoring political points than in doing the right thing for Wisconsin families.”

Republicans insisted they removed policy items, which do not belong in the budget, and those issues could still be debated on the floor as separate legislation in the future.

“We are doing, today, what we did two years ago, four years ago, and we’re removing policy from this budget,” State Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, explained when asked about the objections raised by Democrats. “This budget is going to be about numbers, not about policy.”

Though Democrats and Republicans are at odds over several issues, that does not mean bipartisanship will not happen, especially when it comes to education.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, committee members from both parties said school funding was the most talked about issue during several public hearings held across the state last month.