(The Center Square) – The Democrats on Wisconsin’s budget writing panel say the billions of dollars the state is getting from the federal government are irrelevant in the upcoming state budget discussion.
“Obviously we want to know where the money is going to go,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, told reporters Wednesday. “But the federal money doesn’t really have anything to do with the state budget. One has nothing to do with the other.”
Wisconsin will receive $3.2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds. It’s just part of the $20 billion the state has received over the past year.
Gov. Tony Evers has not yet said where the money will be spent. He has the sole authority to spend that money. On Tuesday, Evers said he’d have some spending details “in the near future.”
Erpenbach said the stimulus money is in addition to the $40 billion Wisconsin spends on its state budget every year. And should be treated as such.
“The budget that we are working on goes to the future. The next couple of years of our spending on roads, schools, whatever the case may be,” Erpenbach said. “So the budget we are putting together really does not have anything to do, and should not have anything to do with the federal funding.”
Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol wanted to spend the $3.2 billion from the stimulus on property tax relief, paying down state debt, sending money to nursing homes across the state, and broadband internet expansion in rural parts of the state. But Gov. Evers vetoed their plan.
“The governor has discretion to spend the dollars up until the end of 2024,” Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee explained Wednesday. “If the governor were to announce tomorrow [how he’d] spend all that money immediately, what would we hear from Republicans? They’d have a chorus of complaints about his choices.”
Republicans who control the state budget process held their latest "listening session" Wednesday, this time in Madison. Lawmakers need to have a budget written and submitted to the governor by the beginning of July.