Republican lawmakers plan to remove hundreds of proposals from Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget next week, from an expansion of Medicaid to the legalization of marijuana to the partial restoration of public sector union bargaining rights.
The move is the first step — and a big one — toward rewriting the budget from the ground up, something GOP leaders have been hinting at since the governor introduced his budget in February.
While many of the biggest financial decisions are yet to be resolved, the plan Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee hope to pass Thursday will remove hundreds of Evers priorities from the budget. Many of those items will substantially reduce the amount of money lawmakers have to spend in the budget for the next two years.
For example, the expansion of Medicaid would bring the state an influx of $1.6 billion in federal funding. And the legalization of recreational marijuana was projected to generate $165 million.
While hardly unexpected, other sources of new revenue would also be wiped out. They include Evers’ proposal to reduce a tax break for capital gains, which was projected to generate an estimated $350 million. They also include his plan to scale back a tax break for manufacturers, which would generate an estimated $488 million.
The list of items up for removal also includes a wide array of policy ideas, from Evers’ call for automatic voter registration to a proposal for nonpartisan redistricting. Evers’ plan to raise the minimum wage would also be gone.
Republicans would eliminate several of the governor’s proposals for changing the unemployment insurance system, including a nearly $80 million renovation of its decades-old computer technology.
Several University of Wisconsin System initiatives would also be removed, including a plan to let the UW System borrow for operating expenses.
While the proposals could in theory be restored later in the budget-writing process, many if not most will face an uphill battle with Republicans who followed a similar process two years ago.
GOP lawmakers have accused Evers’ of packing the budget with a “liberal wish list” of policies, saying many of the plans up for removal were never realistic to begin with.
Evers, meanwhile, has chided Republicans for ignoring the will of the people when it comes to the budget, noting that ideas like marijuana legalization and Medicaid expansion enjoy widespread support in Wisconsin.