Dems Object to GOP Slashing State Budget Provisions
Sen. LaTonya Johnson challenges cuts to Black History Museum.
Wisconsin’s veterans agency would get an additional $10 million to address natural disasters and public emergencies at the state’s three veterans’ homes — one of the few budget actions Thursday to draw a unanimous vote in the Legislature’s budget committee.
Along with the infusion — a response to the COVID-19 pandemic — the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) made a 10% increase in funding for county veterans’ services. In addition, the budget includes $100,000 a year for suicide prevention targeted to veterans. In other respects, the Evers administration’s budget proposal for the state Department of Veterans Affairs remained largely intact.
Those were exceptions Thursday, however, in another round of budget preparation during which legislators from each political party took turns proposing alternative budget items. Democrats’ proposals failed 4-12, and Republican proposals — generally departing from Gov. Tony Evers’ original budget — passed 12-4 with only GOP votes.
Both Democrats on the committee and Evers remain frustrated at Republicans’ elimination of almost 400 items in Evers’ budget a week ago. Evers, in his weekly taped address sponsored by the Democrats, excoriated the JFC majority for cutting out items “that included policies supported by an overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites like expanding BadgerCare, legalizing marijuana, raising the minimum wage, and ensuring a nonpartisan approach to redistricting.”
Evers concluded the address with an appeal to voters, urging them to contact their legislators, “tell them to stop playing politics with our economic recovery” and ask them to support his original budget.
Inside the JFC meeting, Democrats used much of their debate time to remind their counterparts of what had been dropped.
When the panel acted on the budget for the Department of Financial Institutions, for example, Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) admonished the majority for eliminating a proposed program to help workers whose employers don’t have retirement savings programs establish such accounts through their workplace.
“Why, in God’s name, would we not want to help people save their own money for their own retirement?” Goyke asked. “This is another missed opportunity because of Republican action in the Legislature.”
But the most contentious moment arose after the committee voted on a motion from Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) to restore a $169,000 increase for the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and its museum in Milwaukee, part of the state Historical Society budget. The motion failed along party lines.
A few minutes earlier, praising the veterans’ agency budget, Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) championed military service as emblematic of diversity and racial equality — in contrast to “the conversations and the curriculum that we’re seeing throughout our city and country that keep pushing this narrative that racism is the core of American history,” he said.
While acknowledging that “racism is part of American history,” he continued, “the core of American history is the fact that this is a nation that on balance has fought for liberty and freedom — and that fight has been from all different colors.”
After the vote on the Black History Museum, Goyke challenged Kooyenga, alluding to his earlier statements. “I’m available later today, tomorrow, next week, the week after, the week after, the week after — whenever you want to have a debate on equity,” Goyke said, suggesting that they conduct the debate at the museum.
Johnson followed. “Every single time we come to the floor, if these are our values, if we are literally prioritizing our values in this body, then it explains why we hold the title of being the worst place in the nation to raise an African American child,” she said. “It speaks volumes.”
Born emphatically rejected her argument.
“I have a hard time with the idea that this is some sort of a massive statement that speaks volumes and some big equality or equity statement, when what we have before us is a request that no one really asked for,” he declared.
A shocked Johnson interrupted, “Oh, my God!”
“You can have as many outbursts as you want over there, Senator,” Born continued. “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t a fact.” When she responded, calling his comment racist, he pressed on, exercising his power as chair of the meeting.
“You don’t have the floor and you’re not going to sit there and debate me,” he said, before calling for a vote on the GOP version of the Historical Society budget, without the increase.
It passed by the same 12-4 party-line vote.
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.
- Americans for Prosperity Launches Robust Grassroots Thank You Campaign for Legislators’ Leadership Amid Major Budget Battle - AFP Wisconsin - Jul 26th, 2021
- ‘Governor Wins’ on State Budget? - Laurel White - Jul 13th, 2021
- Evers Offers GOP a Second Chance to Fund Schools - Ruth Conniff - Jul 11th, 2021
- Evers Tinkers With Tax Cut - Erik Gunn - Jul 10th, 2021
- Bipartisan Efforts Honor AmeriCorps Members’ Service by Exempting the Segal Education Award from State Income Tax - Serve Wisconsin - Jul 9th, 2021
- AARP WI frustrated but optimistic that budget proposals helping those 50-plus will be addressed by separate legislation this fall - AARP Wisconsin - Jul 9th, 2021
- Sen. Larson Statement on Gov. Evers’ Partial Budget Veto - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jul 8th, 2021
- Republicans on JFC Reject Governor Evers’ Healthy Women, Healthy Babies Proposal in State Budget in Advance of Vote in Assembly - Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin - Jun 29th, 2021
- The State of Politics: Tax Cut Has Democrats Playing Defense - Steven Walters - Jun 28th, 2021
- School Officials, Families Blast GOP Budget - Madeline Fox - Jun 22nd, 2021
Read more about 2021-2023 Wisconsin Budget here