FILE - Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin looks to be headed for a showdown over how to spend some of the state's expected $620 million budget surplus. 

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday proposed spending $252 million of that surplus on public schools in the state. 

"This is a win-win for all of us in the state of Wisconsin," Evers said. 

By spending more money at the state level, the governor argues, local schools will not have to raise local property taxes nearly as often. 

"This reinvestment will help districts to get out from going to referendum every two years," Evers said. 

The governor wants to earmark nearly $80 million for special education reimbursement, then promise to cover 100 percent of special ed costs beyond that. He's also proposing $130 million equalization aid. 

The governor also wants to spend more on school mental health and wellness programs as well as hire more school counselors, psychologists and nurses. 

"This is a no-brainer, folks. We know the bipartisan support is there," Evers said "We just need elected officials to put people before politics.”

Top Republican lawmakers in Madison aren't so sure bipartisan support exists for the governor's proposal. 

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, took to Twitter after the governor's announcement to say it looks like Gov. Evers is interested in adding more people to school payrolls as much as anything. 

"Senate Republicans have been focused since late last year on using our surplus for a tax cut for hard-working families, and the governor knows that. I don’t see us budging off that position," Fitzgerald tweeted. "It appears that the teachers' unions are the ones calling all the shots in the East Wing."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester echoed the same thought. 

"Democrats are fixated on growing the size of government, which they know we won’t do," Vos said on Twitter. 

Both Vos and Fitzgerald say they would rather return any extra money to taxpayers. 

"Every time the state has surplus revenue, Republicans look for ways to return that money to taxpayers. Democrats keep looking for ways to spend your money," Fitzgerald said. 

Gov. Evers said Wisconsin can have both, more money for schools and more money for taxpayers. 

"We don’t have to choose between investing in our kids and reducing property taxes — we can do both," the governor said. "My plan recommits to our promise of two-thirds state funding for our schools and will provide $130 million in property tax relief through equalization aid."

The governor's office noted that since 2011 nearly 1 million Wisconsinites have voted to raise their own property taxes for local schools. In 2018 alone voters approved more than $2 billion in debt and revenue increases for local schools. Evers said more money from the state may bring an end to those kids of local tax increases. 

The Center Square Contributor

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.