MADISON, Wis. — After months of work that began in February, Wisconsin now has a spending plan in place for the next two years.

Even though pen was put to paper Wednesday, which made it official, the governor said he hopes the work isn’t over.

Calling them “substantial improvements,” Gov. Tony Evers signed the budget Wednesday with 51 partial vetoes, which he believes will free up money in the $98 billion spending bill Republicans passed to give the Legislature room to continue to find ways to fund priorities the governor insists will help the state’s workforce and economy.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Tony Evers signed the nearly $98 billion 2023-2025 biennial budget on Wednesday

  • Evers enacted the budget with 51 line-item vetoes, calling them "substantial improvements"

  • The budget passed the Republican-controlled Legislature last week with no support from Democrats

  • The governor urged the Legislature to continue working on the budget through the rest of this legislative session

“While Republicans in the Legislature might be perfectly comfortable abdicating the duty we share, I’m not,” Gov. Evers said.

The governor announced Wednesday morning he would not scrap the two-year spending plan nor force the Legislature to start over. However, Evers did express disappointment over the historic opportunity to spend the surplus.

“[Republicans] sent the budget back to my desk without making critical investments in key areas that they know, and have acknowledged, are essential to the success of our state.”

Evers, a Democrat, said he made 51 partial vetoes this biennium, in order to better invest in local communities, public education and the workforce.

“There are lots of wins here," Evers said at a signing ceremony surrounded by Democratic lawmakers, local leaders, members of his Cabinet and others.

With the budget, there will be an estimated 20% increase in shared revenue for most of the state’s municipalities. Additionally, more than $1 billion is being invested in K-12 education, including $50 million to improve reading outcomes and $30 million for mental health.

“Regardless of the Governor’s misguided tax policies, I continue to be proud of our work on the state’s spending plans for the next two years," Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said in a statement. "We gave the Governor a great plan that he couldn’t possibly veto. He adopted most of our work to craft a state budget that funds our priorities and plans for the future.”

However, using his powerful veto power, Evers also was able to provide $15 million for child care providers as grants instead of loans, and to let the University of Wisconsin System retain 188 positions within the diversity, equity and inclusion programming.

“I urge the Legislature to continue working on this budget through the rest of this legislative session so we can bolster our state’s workforce, maintain our economic momentum, and do the right thing for Wisconsin,” Evers said on Twitter. While final spending totals have yet to be received, the governor's staff estimates his vetoes could cut more than $3 billion from the budget to be spent on other priorities by the Legislature.

The budget also increases pay for all state employees by 6% over the next two years, with higher increases for guards at the state's understaffed state prisons.

Republicans blasted the vetoes, accusing Evers of breaking deals he had reached with them.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said allowing the school revenue limit to increase effectively forever would result in “massive property tax increases” because schools will have the authority to raise those taxes if state aid isn't enough to meet the per-pupil cost. Vos also said scaling back the tax cut put Wisconsin at an economic disadvantage to neighboring states with lower rates.

“Legislative Republicans worked tirelessly over the last few months to block Gov. Evers’ liberal tax and spending agenda," Vos said in a statement. “Unfortunately, because of his powerful veto authority, he reinstated some of it today.”

Vos did not say if Republicans would attempt veto overrides, an effort that is almost certain to fail because they would need Democratic votes in the Assembly to get the two-thirds majority required by state law.

While every income earning bracket will still get some tax relief, other Republicans expressed their disappointment that the governor reduced the size of the cut for the top two brackets, resulting in the overall $3.5 billion cut Republicans proposed reduced to $175 million.

“Last year Governor Evers campaigned on Republican tax cuts; now that he’s been re-elected, he shows his true colors," State Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, said in a statement. "The Governor’s partial veto of the legislature’s tax cut hurts taxpayers, hinders Wisconsin’s ability to attract new talent, and stifles our potential for growth. Evers politically-motivated actions will have real life consequences for our future.”

No governor has vetoed the budget in its entirety since 1930. This marks the third time that Evers has signed a budget into law that was passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature. In 2019, he issued 78 partial vetoes and in 2021 he made 50.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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