Thursday, October 17, 2019

Don't fall for ALEC crew's "spending amendment." It's another gerrymandered GOP Power-Grab

On Tuesday, we had a hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment to the Wisconsin State Constitution that was promoted by Republicans after Governor Evers did some creative vetoing with the state budget in July.
Gov. Tony Evers used his veto pen Wednesday to boost K-12 education funding in Wisconsin by about $65 million in the next two-year state budget….

The boost to education funding means the state will increase K-12 education spending by about $570 million over the next two years. The budget approved by the Legislature had already slated a roughly $500 million increase.

Evers accomplished the spending bump by increasing per-pupil aid in Wisconsin by $63 per student in each of the next two years. The change, which will cost roughly $87 million, is similar to one requested earlier this week by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
So let’s look at this proposed constitutional amendment, and see what it says.
Section 10 (1) (d) of article V of the constitution is created to read:

[Article V] Section 10 (1) (d) In approving an appropriation bill in part, the governor may not increase state expenditures for any purpose over that provided in the enrolled bill.
Sounds easy enough on the surface, and that’s how the Republicans are portraying it. They say this would keep Wisconsin’s governor from adding money to a budget if the Legislature didn’t allow it.

But it’s not. And the key words are “enrolled bill.” In Legislative-speak, “enrolled bills” are items that have passed both houses of the Legislature and are sitting on the Governor’s desk for signature. (Here’s what we have on Governor Evers’ desk today, if you want to look.)
So if the Legislature cuts a certain expenditure and the governor disagrees, is the governor’s hands tied? Sen. Fred Risser pointed that out in this week’s committee hearing on the proposal.
Risser also raised concerns that a “vindictive Legislature” could cut funding for agencies it disagreed with politically or the salaries of judges who ruled against the majority party, warning the proposal would prevent a future governor from addressing that situation.
As a constituent, I got a better example, Fred.

UW base state funding is $1.12 billion.

GOP Legislature cuts it to $1 billion.

If the governor refuses to go along with that budget cut, can he/she veto that part of the budget to restore current law of $1.12 billion? If I’m reading this correctly, it seems the answer is NO.

If that’s the case, the amendment would turn vetoes of budget cuts into an “all or nothing” scenario, where the Guv would only be able to restore money to that agency by vetoing the entire budget, and having the Legislature come up with another one. It would be a lot like the budget process that we see in DC these days, and that doesn't work well.

If the problem that the GOP is trying to solve involves the Governor adding money beyond what is already law and/or in a budget line, then write the amendment to prevent that specific move. I’d even vote for it myself. But this amendment seems to go farther than that.

On the flip side, this proposed amendment has no problem with the governor using a partial veto to cut money out of the budget. Which to me is a major tell, as I strongly suspect it’s a backdoor way to starve state government, and hurt a Democratic governor who would be forced to do more with less.

So even if the Guv and the majority of state residents disagree with what the Legislature is doing, the GOPs would get the results they want. Once you put the pieces together, it is clear that this proposed amendment is Koch-ALEC BS intended to allow a gerrymandered GOP Legislature to hamstring state government through budget cuts and the dysfunction of numerous full-budget vetoes.

It’s time for Dems to call this out as the slanted power-grab that it is, and put all GOPs on the spot to ask them if they think the Governor of Wisconsin shouldn’t be allowed to veto budget cuts. And add it to the list of a series of power-grabs and handcuffs that the gerrymandered GOP Legislature are trying to impose on Tony Evers, even though a whole lot more Wisconsinites voted for Tony than voted for them.

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