Some lawmakers predict federal relief aid could impact state budget negotiations

NOW: Some lawmakers predict federal relief aid could impact state budget negotiations

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Some lawmakers on the powerful budget writing committee believe how the state spends billions in federal relief aid could impact budget negotiations and potentially delay the process. 

Starting on Thursday, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee will remove nearly 300 items from Governor Tony Evers' budget proposal including expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana, requiring background checks for gun purchases and raising the minimum wage.

But before that occurs, GOP leaders and chairs of the budget writing committee are inviting Evers to meet with them “as soon as possible” to discuss his plans to spend $3.2 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

Rep. Mark Born, co-chair of the budget committee, said knowing how those funds are spent is crucial to crafting the next two-year spending plan. 

“It would certainly be easier to build a state budget knowing how our state investments could work together,” Born said. “We can’t do that until (Evers) makes a decision or shows some willingness to work with us.”

Democrats on the committee disagree and say COVID-19 relief aid shouldn’t determine how much the state should invest in other priorities they argue have been underfunded for years. 

“That federal money has nothing to do with our ongoing obligation to appropriately fund K-12 schools, make changes to our criminal justice system and protect our environment,” said Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee). 

For weeks, Evers indicated that he would disclose where the federal funds will go “in the near future,” but so far has only announced $600 million will be spent on small businesses, $50 million for the tourism industry, $200 million on infrastructure, and $500 million on pandemic response measures. 

No additional spending plans have been released, but the Evers administration has until 2024 to spend it. This is part of the reason why Goyke predicts “it will likely cause some delays in our state budget process.” 

Lawmakers have until June 30 to craft the next spending plan.

Rep. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) also believes federal funds should also remain out of budget negotiations, and industries negatively impacted by COVID-19 should encourage Republicans to spend more money to reduce racial disparities in health care and K-12 education. 

“There’s an opportunity for them to invest more money in things that would help to alleviate some of those issues, but we are not seeing their willingness to do that,” said Johnson. 

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