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As Republicans plan veto overrides, Gov. Evers issues another lawsuit over withheld funding • Wisconsin Examiner

Republican Senate lawmakers announced Monday that they plan to vote to override several vetoes issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers this year. At the same time, Evers announced another lawsuit against Republican lawmakers over funding he says lawmakers are wrongly withholding. 

Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) highlighted at least five of the bills that the Senate will take action on Tuesday including one that outlines how $125 million could be used to combat PFAS contamination, one that allocates $15 million towards supporting hospitals in Chippewa Valley, one to establish a statewide wolf population goal, one to establish a teacher apprenticeship program and one to require post-election audits.

“We have urgent needs across the state,” Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) said at a press conference in the Wisconsin State Capitol. “The Legislature has addressed those needs and solved those problems, however, the governor put special interests and his liberal base ahead of the people of Wisconsin.” 

The Senate calendar includes over 30 bills that have been partially or fully vetoed by Evers, but it’s unclear how many lawmakers will take action on. 

Marklein said the veto overrides is likely the last chance to get the $125 million for PFAS funding and the $15 million for hospitals out the door. 

“I think the override of the veto is the end of the line for these bills. I don’t see any other pathway,” Marklein said. “We want this money out the door.” 

Republican lawmakers and Evers have been at an impasse over the guidelines for how $125  million can be spent to combat PFAS for months. Part of the disagreement started when Republican lawmakers passed SB 312, but included an “innocent landowners” provision that Democrats opposed because they said it could shield polluters from being held accountable. Evers vetoed the bill because he said he objected to limiting the DNR’s enforcement power and because the provisions in the bill are largely unnecessary for combating PFAS contamination in Wisconsin.

Evers has since attempted to call Republicans on the budget committee into two special meetings to get them to release the funding. However, Republicans have rebuffed those calls, saying they wouldn’t release the money without the legislation. 

Similarly, lawmakers will vote to override Evers’ partial veto of SB 1014, which allocated $15 million to help support hospitals in western Wisconsin. Evers issued a partial veto meant to allow the money to be used for other health care needs in the region besides emergency departments. Republicans have said it went against the legislative intent of the bill. 

Republicans hold a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate, meaning they can pass the veto overrides without needing Democratic support. They still encouraged Evers to urge Democrats to vote with them in a letter.

“We hope that you will work with your Democrat colleagues in the legislature and urge them to vote to override your vetoes on these two crucial bills. The legislature has no remaining session days after this week, and we will not break the law and override your vetoes through committee action,” Senate Republicans wrote in a letter to Evers.

The veto overrides are likely fated to fail since they would also need to pass the Assembly — where Republicans are two seats shy of a supermajority. Marklein said he hadn’t spoken with Assembly Republicans about whether they would take up the veto overrides.

Evers sues over literacy program funding 

As lawmakers announced their veto override plans, Evers argued that Republicans were obstructing the “basic functions of government” and filed another lawsuit against them over funds that they haven’t released that are meant to fund new literacy programs.

“Our response to challenges facing Wisconsin like water contamination, improving our kids’ reading outcomes, and responding to hospital closures in rural communities is being held up by Republican lawmakers,” Evers said in a statement. 

Evers announced that he filed a countersuit in Dane County Circuit Court that relates to Wisconsin Act 100, which is meant to create a “mechanism” for the state’s Joint Finance Committee to deploy $50 million to support new K-12 literacy programs. The countersuit comes in reaction to Republican lawmakers’ lawsuit against Evers’ partial veto of the bill, which they argue wasn’t eligible for a partial veto, last month.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has said it will become increasingly difficult for  schools to meet the requirements of the law with the majority of the $50 million still unreleased by the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee. 

Evers and DPI are asking that the Court declare that the Legislature and the Joint Finance Committee are “improperly withholding” the funds.

The lawsuit argues that the delay in releasing the funds is unlawful, saying that the statute gives the budget committee discretion over money intended to supplement agency appropriations due to “unforeseen emergencies” or similar circumstances. 

“This case involves the opposite [of such emergencies]: money set aside in the biennial budget for a specific purpose that the Legislature plainly foresaw,” the countersuit states. 

It also argues that if the state statute does give the lawmakers the discretion over the funds, it would be unconstitutional because “separation of powers principles prevent the legislative branch from exercising a legislative veto over the crediting of already-appropriated money to its intended executive branch recipient.”

“The fact that Wisconsinites and communities across our state have waited months to receive funding to respond to pressing issues because Republican lawmakers refuse to release investments they already approved is unconscionable,” Evers said. 

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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2024%2F05%2F14%2Fas-republicans-plan-veto-overrides-gov-evers-issues-another-lawsuit-over-withheld-funding%2F by Baylor Spears

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