Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) planned to legalize marijuana as a part of his forthcoming budget proposal, which also included a plan to raise the minimum wage and improve the state’s juvenile correctional system. The Republican leaders of the legislature’s budget committee said Thursday that they would throw out the central parts of Evers’ budget due to the plan’s nature of being a “liberal’s dream,” according to a senator from Spring Green, Wisconsin.
During a virtual forum hosted by WisPolitics, Sen. Howard Marklein stated, “I would describe his budget as a liberal’s dream.” Marklein was joined at the event by Rep. Mark Born of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. The two Republicans have long served on the Joint Finance Committee but are new to leading it as the committee’s co-chairmen. However, their roles make the two of them key decision makers in the Wisconsin Capitol. The two share similar points of view as they suggested they wouldn’t let the sales tax increase and expressed strong doubts about going along with Evers’ plans to expand the state healthcare programs under Obamacare.
According to news sources, the finance committee will spend the next few months rewriting the $91 billion budget plan that Evers released on Tuesday. The committee’s version of the budget will most likely go to the Assembly and Senate, which will later be sent on to Evers for approval or veto.
Both Marklein and Born say they don’t know whether their budget would have the state fund two-thirds of the cost of educating Wisconsin’s K-12 students – an often stated and often missed goal of Wisconsin officials over the years. However, according to Born the decision on the matter is premature.
Due to the uncertainty about whether to back two-thirds funding, the two had prompted criticism from Britt Cuaback, a spokeswoman from Gov. Tony Ever’s team. Remarks were tweeted about the incident:
“That’s interesting since Assembly Republicans promised to get there in 2019 after it was recommended by a Republican-led bipartisan commission.”
Born and Marklein fired back with a response to a different matter, deflecting the statement made by the spokeswomen about whether they would continue the long-running tuition freeze for in-state University of Wisconsin students that Evers backs. Mark Born said that the Republicans were split on whether to give the university system authority to borrow money, an idea Evers included in his budget. Marklein had expressed skepticism towards the idea. There are still disagreements that need to be worked out with this portion of the proposal.
Moving forward, other proposals are sure to come out of the budget. For instance, Born said Evers’ budget plan to change how juvenile offenders were prosecuted and held should not be part of the budget deliberations. Evers wants to legalize recreational marijuana, which is an idea opposed by many Republicans in this proposal. Marklein stated, “I just believe it’s too big to be inserted in the state budget.”
Other matters on the proposal include Evers recommending raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.60 an hour this year. This would then be followed up with another increase to $10.15 an hour by the year 2024. Marklein believes that idea should be taken out of the budget, as it concerns him with who is going to be impacted the most. Usually people on the lowest end of the economic spectrum are most impacted by these changes because when wages at the low end get too high, companies begin to automate those sectors, creating massive job losses.
In nearly every part of this proposal, Marklein is questioning the fairness of Evers’ plan. Another prime example of this is Ever’s inclusion of a provision in his budget that would let counties and some municipalities raise the sales tax by half a percentage point if approved by voters, which would allow the sales tax to increase by as much as one point, to 6.5%, in areas where both county and municipal voters supported the idea. “The governor’s proposal is great for the city of Madison, it’s great for Dane County. When I look at a county like Lafayette County in my district, where they’ve got virtually no retail base, they’re not going to benefit,” according to a statement Marklein had made.
Marklein goes on to state that, “My townships are not going to benefit from that proposal. So I’m very concerned that this specific policy decision would make the rich richer and our poor poorer and increase the disparity between our wealthier counties in this state and our poor counties.”
Born offered Evers a glimmer of hope stating that there is some common ground in the proposal and hope of some of it passing through the Republican-controlled Legislature. Born later stated that he liked the direction the governor was headed with his proposal to invest $200 million in expanding broadband over the next two years, though he noted Republicans will modify specific portions of that proposal. Time will tell if adult-use recreational marijuana will ultimately be included in the Wisconsin governor’s budget proposal.
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