GOP Plans To Spend Federal Stimulus May Not Be Allowed |
MADISON (AP) – Majority of Wisconsin Republicans’ plans to spend $ 3.2 billion in federal stimulus funds may not be allowed under law or may need to be paid back, non-partisan analyzes of the bills show who advance rapidly to the Legislative Assembly.
Republicans are set to pass bills that would spend federal money the way they want, rather than the way Democratic Gov. Tony Evers wants. The law gives the governor control over most of the money and he has provided few details on how he intends to spend it. Evers has signaled he will veto Republican measures.
A package of 11 bills introduced by Republicans this week was scheduled for a public hearing and a vote in the Legislative Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee for budget drafting on Wednesday. The bills specify how approximately $ 2.7 billion of state money would be spent, with an unspecified additional amount intended for unemployment insurance benefits.
However, the non-partisan Tax Office in the Legislature has determined that three of the proposed proposals call for spending about $ 626 million in areas not permitted under federal law. In addition, a proposed $ 1 billion property tax reduction for all Wisconsin homeowners and money intended for unemployment insurance may have to be repaid by the state, the Fiscal Bureau said.
The Fiscal Bureau said it appears federal law would not allow Republican proposals to withdraw $ 250 million in bonds used for transportation projects; $ 308 million in loans for local road projects; and $ 68 million to replace a statewide public safety communications system and increase the number of psychiatric beds at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.
Federal law generally allows the money to be used by 2024 to respond to the coronavirus pandemic; replace income lost due to the pandemic; invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; paying essential state workers up to $ 13 an hour; and pay non-government entities that transport passengers and goods on behalf of the government.
However, specific guidelines on the use of federal money have not been released, leading the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau to say that it is not clear in many circumstances whether Republican bills would be. authorized.
The Republican spending proposals that would be allowed, according to the Fiscal Bureau, included $ 500 million for broadband expansion; $ 200 million for small businesses; $ 150 million for nursing homes and assisted living facilities; $ 75 million in tourism subsidies; $ 61 million to fight water pollution; and $ 50 million for rural economic development.
Even if the Legislature passes the measures, perhaps as early as next week, the bills face a likely veto from Evers. Asked about the GOP’s plans to come up with their own proposals, an Evers spokeswoman spoke of her vetoing a bill that would have required lawmakers to approve how the money is spent.
Evers said last week that it planned to spend $ 600 million in federal money to help small businesses; $ 50 million for the tourism industry; $ 200 million to modernize infrastructure, including broadband access; and $ 500 million for pandemic response efforts.
Budget committee co-chair Republican Mark Born on Tuesday defended moving forward with the Republican bills that Evers will likely veto.
“It’s his prerogative, but it’s not going to make me change my decision,” Born said.