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GOP leaders request meeting with Tony Evers over use of federal COVID-19 funds

GOP leaders request meeting with Tony Evers over use of federal COVID-19 funds

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Republican legislative leaders have requested a meeting with Gov. Tony Evers to discuss how the Democratic governor plans to spend billions in federal coronavirus stimulus dollars before the GOP-led finance committee starts voting on the 2021-23 budget this Thursday.

In a letter sent Monday from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, and co-chairs of the state’s powerful budget committee Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, the Republicans requested a meeting with the governor “as soon as possible” to walk through Evers’ plans for $3.2 billion allocated to the state in the latest federal stimulus.

The federal money, which the governor has full discretion over, represents one-time funds, yet Republicans in the Legislature say knowing how Evers plans to use those dollars could factor into the upcoming budget.

“We are eager to add your plans to the state budget discussion so that we may dedicate precious state resources to the priorities of all Wisconsinites,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “As we have said, we need to know where the federal funds are going so that we can direct state funds where we need them.”

Evers said last week he was still awaiting federal guidelines on how the stimulus could be used, but hoped to provide an update to the budget committee in the near future.

Evers has said it’s too early to make firm plans for all the funding until guidelines are provided. He added that he would consider talking with state Republicans about how to use those funds, but added such discussions were not “a top priority.”

Evers’ office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

So far, Evers has pledged to spend $2.5 billion of those funds on economic relief for families, workers and small-business owners, which includes $50 million for the tourism industry and $600 million to support businesses affected by the pandemic — which includes $420 million in grants to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evers has vetoed multiple attempts by state Republicans to gain control of stimulus funds, including a package of 11 bills that, among other measures, would have used those dollars to pay down state debt, provide $200 million in assistance for small businesses and provide $1 billion in property tax relief.

GOP leaders on Friday announced plans to strip hundreds of items from consideration in Evers’ budget, including a proposed expansion of Medicaid, restoration of public employee bargaining rights and marijuana legalization.

The provisions Republicans plan to remove include more than 190 non-fiscal policy items, a figure Republicans say is double the number Evers included in his last budget proposal two years ago and the most in at least 30 years.

The budget committee will meet Thursday to begin formal deliberations on the 2021-23 biennial budget. A finalized budget is due July 1.

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