Sen. Dale Kooyenga, 2021 unmasked

Sen. Dale Kooyenga.

(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol are looking to change the state constitution, they say, to keep Wisconsin from wasting billions of dollars.

Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Robert Wittke, R-Racine, are proposing a Constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 84, that would give lawmakers a say over how Wisconsin’s federal dollars are spent.

“Long ago, the legislature abandoned its responsibility to help decide where federal funding is spent. It’s time to restore the accountability that the legislative process brings,” Kooyenga explained. “Neither of these proposals is about who is currently the governor, they’re about ensuring Wisconsin thrives long into the future by locking in fiscal responsibility and accountability.”

Wisconsin lawmakers largely decide how nearly $40 billion in state dollars are spent each year, but there’s no legislative control over billions more from Washington, D.C., which includes the $3 billion in coronavirus stimulus money over which Gov. Evers has sole control.

“Never before have we seen this much federal money pour into our state,” Wittke said Tuesday. “To have one person alone make the decision for where the money is spent just isn’t good governance no matter the political affiliation.”

A second proposed amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 85, from Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg, would force state government to use standard, private-sector accounting in determining if the budget is balanced.

“While Washington keeps spending trillions of dollars that don’t exist, Wisconsin’s books are truly balanced for the first time in decades,” Katsma said. “Our proposals will help prevent ever returning to the bad old days of unsustainable spending.”

“We spent more than a decade responsibly budgeting to get Wisconsin out of a $3 billion hole. This amendment will eliminate the temptation for future legislatures and governors to use budget gimmicks to balance the state budget,” Marklein said.

Wisconsin is one of 15 states that does not use the generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, in balancing its state budget.

That allows Wisconsin to consider money spent only after the bill is paid, which can push unpaid bills into the next budget or next year all together.

Lawmakers will need to approve the amendments this year, then again in 2023 before the amendments can be placed on the ballot for voters to decide. If voters approve them, there is no way Gov. Evers can veto either proposal.