Gov. Tony Evers Criticizes GOP School Spending Plan, Says Full Budget Veto A Possibility

Gov. Tony Evers was sharply critical of Republican plans for education spending in the next state budget on Tuesday, saying he hasn’t ruled out vetoing the entire budget later this year.

Last week, the Legislature’s GOP-controlled state budget committee approved a K-12 spending plan that falls $1.4 billion short of the governor’s proposal. 

“What they invested was paltry and an insult to the kids of our state,” Evers told reporters at a Capitol press event on Tuesday afternoon. The governor was at the Capitol for an event marking the beginning of Pride Month, which included the third annual raising of the rainbow pride flag over the building. 

The Republican-backed education funding amount has raised questions about whether Wisconsin can qualify for the latest round of federal coronavirus aid for schools. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to the state schools superintendent cautioning that the GOP plan could fall short of federal eligibility requirements for the aid. Under the requirements, state spending on schools must be level between the 2020 and 2023 fiscal years. If Wisconsin qualifies, it is set to receive $1.5 billion in federal aid for schools. 

Evers argued on Tuesday that even meeting the minimum federal requirement wouldn’t be a large enough investment over the next two years. 

“Not only should (the Legislature) be meeting the requirements from the federal government, they should be actually helping our kids move forward, as a state,” he said. “My budget was a reasonable approach. What the Republicans have put forward is not only inadequate, but even if they meet those federal guidelines, it’s an inadequate response.”

Over the past several weeks, Republicans have removed hundreds of the governor’s priorities from the state spending plan, including major items like an expansion of Medicaid and legalization of marijuana.

The governor has the power to partially veto the state budget, as he did in 2019 to increase school spending, or to veto the entire budget outright  — a step Evers said Tuesday he hasn’t ruled out.

“That’s too early to tell, but that is always an option that’s on the table,” he said.

If the governor were to veto the entire budget, the current 2019-2021 spending plan would be extended to fund programs while Evers and lawmakers began negotiations again from square one.