(The Center Square) – The latest preview of Gov. Tony Evers’ new state budget focuses on conservation – as well as making it tougher for lawmakers to stop some of his conservation projects.
The governor released an outline of his clean energy and conservation plan on Wednesday.
Evers said he wants to “bolster the state’s clean energy and conservation workforce, and improve transparency and accountability in the state’s allocation of stewardship funds.”
After explaining his plans to invest in a clean energy workforce and economy, bolster forest regeneration and management, expand the state’s forestry industry and workforce, and prevent invasive species, the governor outlined a new process for conservation and stewardship.
“Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program protects our state’s natural resources through land purchases by conservation organizations and the Department of Natural Resources to maintain parks, build new trails, and protect shorelines,” Evers explained. “Unfortunately, the review process for these projects has been weaponized by members of the Legislature to indefinitely suspend critical projects from moving forward, leaving projects hanging in limbo.”
The governor said he wants to repeal what he calls the “arbitrary requirement” that has lawmakers sign-off on any project north of Highway 64. He also wants to end legislative oversight over any stewardship grants and acquisitions that cost up to a half-million dollars. Currently that threshold is $250,000. Evers also wants to end the practice of allowing lawmakers to anonymously object to stewardship programs.
“[Require] that if a member of the Legislature objects to a proposed stewardship project approval, that member’s name and nature of the objection be announced publicly,” the governor said in his outline.
The conservation suggestions came one day after Gov. Evers unveiled his tax proposal.
The governor on Tuesday suggested a massive increase in so-called shared revenue, up to 20% of state sales tax revenues. He also suggested allowing counties across Wisconsin to raise their local sales taxes.
The governor is set to deliver his budget address to the legislature next week.
After that, the Republicans who control the legislature will then write their own spending plan.
Top Republicans on Wednesday didn’t say whether any of the governor’s suggestions will be a part of that plan.