Governor Tony Evers’ budget vetoes actually increased government spending, something that was not supposed to be possible. Now two Republican state legislators want to change the state constitution to prevent this from happening again.
Sen. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon) and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) are proposing the State Budget Protection Act. The proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit the governor from increasing state expenditures with his or her veto power for any purpose above what is proposed in the spending bill.
“During this budget process, Governor Evers aggressively modified the legislature’s budget with his partial veto to increase state spending by over $84 million without approval from the legislature – the branch of government closest to taxpayers,” Craig said in a statement announcing the proposed amendment. “We need to prevent this from ever happening again.”
According to an analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, the governor’s current veto powers doesn’t have such limits. “Currently, in exercising the partial veto power, the governor is limited only insofar as that he or she may not create a new word by rejecting individual letters in the words of the enrolled bill, and may not create a new sentence by combining parts of two or more sentences of the enrolled bill,” they wrote in the analysis.
That cannot continue, according to Craig.
“The legislature’s role in the budget process has been continually eroded by the executive branch, and it is beyond time we right-size the governor’s veto pen to protect taxpayers and restore the legislature’s constitutional authority,” Craig said. “This amendment will ensure that the will of taxpayers, through their elected representatives, will have final say in limiting the overall spending in the state budget.”
Evers’ use of his veto to increase spending raised concerns among both liberals and conservatives.
“It’s one thing to allow the governor to write down or block spending through the use of the line-item vetoes,” Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s quite another thing to allow the governor to appropriate money. I don’t think that’s what our state Constitution was intended to do.”
Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin also expressed concerns.
“It would be wise to take a look at that, see if it could be brought down to scale,” Heck told the State Journal.
The governor’s line-item veto power was created in 1930, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. The power was limited by amendments to the constitution in 1990 and 2008. Amending the state constitution requires the bill to be passed in two consecutive sessions of the legislature and approval by the voters in a referendum.