- Associated Press
Friday, April 30, 2021

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Republicans plan to vote next week to kill key parts of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget proposal, including legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, expanding Medicaid to capture $1.6 billion in federal funding and granting collective bargaining rights to public workers.

The move, announced Friday, is no surprise and follows what the GOP-controlled Legislature did two years ago to Evers’ first budget. Evers and Democrats have lobbied for his proposal to be taken up as written, saying it reflects what the people of the state want. Republicans decried it as a liberal wish list.

The Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee will vote Thursday on removing a 15-page list of nearly 300 items from the $91 billion spending plan before they then work on rebuilding a two-year spending plan from scratch. Some of the items targeted for removal could return in an altered form more palatable to conservatives, while others will not be resurrected.

Other items Republicans intend to remove include freezing enrollment in the private school voucher program and allowing the University of Wisconsin System to borrow for operational expenses. That is a top priority of university officials, who said it was needed to deal with short-term losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Also on the chopping block: Making Juneteenth, the day marking the emancipation of people who had been enslaved in the United States, a state holiday; increasing taxes on capital gains and manufacturers; cutting taxes for poor people; re-instating collective bargaining rights lost under the Act 10 law passed a decade ago; and automatic voter registration.

Republicans will also vote to remove a package of criminal justice reforms introduced after George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges. That includes banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds . A bipartisan racial justice task force in April released a set of recommendations that are expected to be put forward as separate legislation, but that also do no ban no-knock warrants or chokeholds.

Republicans also plan to remove Evers’ call to create a so-called red flag law for gun owners; new statewide standards for the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS; and allowing municipalities and counties to raise the sales tax if approved by voters.

The Republican co-chairs of the budget committee, Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Howard Marklein, issued a joint statement saying they were removing “divisive” items from the budget.

“Republicans are working hard to craft a responsible budget that reflects the real priorities and needs of the citizens of Wisconsin,” Marklein and Born said.

Evers did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

“Wisconsin Republicans are sending a clear message that they haven’t listened to a single word of what the public has told them this year,” said Democratic state Sen. Kelda Roys, of Madison.

Evers and Republican legislative leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

The budget runs from July through mid-2023. After the Legislature passes its plan, likely in June, Evers will have a chance to make substantial changes through his broad veto powers. Two years ago, no Democrat voted for the budget but Evers signed it into law anyway.

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