Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued 78 line-item vetoes, including one to increase education spending by about $65 million, before signing the Republican-shaped state budget Tuesday.
"I have to make this clear: this budget is just a down payment on the people's budget,” Evers said at a news conference Tuesday, adding in his veto message: "Unfortunately, this budget that I have now signed is, in many ways, insufficient."
The GOP-controlled legislature delivered Evers a two-year, $81 billion state budget late last month that includes about $4 billion in additional state spending but was about $1.5 billion below Evers' proposal.
Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called Evers' veto changes "minimal" and said that because the GOP budget was largely "kept intact, I think it’s a good thing for Wisconsin.”
Evers wanted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and increase the state's gas tax to pay for more infrastructure projects, but Republicans stripped both items from their version.
With the $65 million in funding Evers added with his veto, public schools in the state will receive an additional $570 million over the biennium. Despite the increased school spending, Evers said he "strongly considered vetoing the Legislature’s entire budget because it did not do enough to ensure that our kids and schools have the resources they need to be successful."
Evers vetoes also included removing $5 million in funds to begin the process of building a new prison in Green Bay and reducing funding for implementing work requirements and drug testing of residents who receive food assistance.
“Governor Evers seems intent on trapping people on welfare," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in response. "Because of his partial vetoes, he’s starving programs that incentivize work, undermining their implementation and skirting the law. We know people support drug testing and work requirements for welfare recipients and this budget ignores that fact.
“At a time with historically low unemployment and many unfilled jobs, this is merely a shortsighted, political move and an insult to the hardworking men and women of our state."