GOP veto override to end federal unemployment benefits fails, Evers special session on education unsuccessful

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MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- As expected, Republican lawmakers' attempt to override a veto by Gov. Tony Evers failed, at the same time the governor's call for a special session to invest millions in schools was ignored by GOP leaders.  

On Tuesday, lawmakers in the Assembly debated Republicans trying to overturn a veto made by Gov. Evers on a bill that would end federal unemployment benefits.  

The proposal was rejected by Evers in June which would have reduced Wisconsin's weekly unemployment benefit from $670 each week to $370. The override vote fell along party lines (59-37), with all Republicans in support and Democrats voting against the measure.  

Republicans, who control the Assembly (61-38), were unable to get two-thirds of the vote required to successfully override the governor.  

The federal program that provides a weekly unemployment bonus is scheduled to end on Sept. 6. Republicans believe the extra benefits are disincentivizing people from going back to work and worsening the worker shortage in Wisconsin. 

"If you pay people over $17/hour tax-free to stay home, there are going to be fewer people working. It's not rocket science," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). 

To receive the benefits, the unemployed are required to search for work each week.  

Vos said other states that have passed similar legislation to get rid of the unemployment bonus saw more people entering the workforce. Vos also blamed Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development for not holding individuals more accountable for their required work searches.     

"Other states have been more rigorous in their auditing of making sure people are doing work searches and they saw a pretty big increase in the number of folks once they ended the extra benefits," said Vos.  

Democrats and Gov. Evers don't believe the proposal would fix the labor shortage and oppose taking away additional benefits from people who have been most impacted by the pandemic.  

"Despite the political rhetoric from the right over the last six months, Wisconsin’s worker shortage is not new," said Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine). "Ending these final few weeks of extended benefits won't solve this deep-seated problem." 

Economists have also pointed to other factors impacting the workforce such as child care, low wages, and others finding different careers.  

"We've had a low wage crisis for decades, if people are making more on unemployment that's on us, not them," said Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison). 

Republicans Reject Special Session to Increase School Funding   

Gov. Evers calls for a special session to invest $550 million in K-12 schools and the UW System was rejected by Republican lawmakers, both chambers quickly ending the session without debate or votes.  

Evers announced the special session on Monday after learning Republicans would attempt to override one of his vetoes.  

The plan would have directed $440 million to K-12 schools and $110 million for the UW System and technical colleges.  

Ahead of the session, Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), the co-chair of the budget committee, defended the Republicans' decision to not invest more money for schools beyond what the state budget included.  

"The massive amount of money we spend on every budget is state and federal money, and this time there’s a lot more federal money," said Born. "We're not looking to revisit the education budget because we already made major investments the first time." 

Schools will get an additional $128 million in the next state budget, but it places limits on how much revenue districts can raise -- resulting in a flat increase.  

Republicans have long said with the federal relief aid going directly to school districts, additional investments are not needed. However, education officials argue it doesn't make up for all of the losses they incurred during the pandemic and ongoing costs.  

"It's disappointing, clearly we need every dollar for our public schools, the University of Wisconsin, and our technical colleges," said Evers during a press event in Green Bay.  

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