Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

February 9, 2024


Are You OK with a One-Man, $5 Billion Spending Spree?

The Senate will soon be voting to ask you a question that will be on your ballot in November. We want you, the voters, to decide if one person in our government should be allowed to spend your tax dollars without any sort of oversight. What do you think?
The exact questions are:
QUESTION 1:  “Delegation of appropriation power. Shall section 35 (1) of article IV of the constitution be created to provide that the legislature may not delegate its sole power to determine how moneys shall be appropriated?"
QUESTION 2:  “Allocation of federal moneys. Shall section 35 (2) of article IV of the constitution be created to prohibit the governor from allocating any federal moneys the governor accepts on behalf of the state without the approval of the legislature by joint resolution or as provided by legislative rule?”
Again, we want voters to decide if the legislature, which is elected by the people and represents the people, should have a role in deciding how to spend the people’s money. It’s that simple.
This is not – and should not – be a political question. It has nothing to do with parties or politics. It has everything to do with whether your elected representatives should have a role in spending tax dollars – or if one person should have ultimate say over spending your tax dollars.
For much of Wisconsin's early history, lawmakers had the final say over the spending of all funds in the state treasury, no matter their source. However, legislators abandoned that important responsibility during the 1930s and 1940s as federal dollars began to compose a much larger share of state spending.
During that time, most authority over that growing pool of funds was given to the executive branch as past legislatures transferred to the governor unilateral authority to allocate funds received from the federal government through the enactment of several laws during and after the Great Depression era.
As a result, the Governor has been on a one-man, $5 billion spending spree. He has had unilateral authority to spend all of the Federal tax dollars Wisconsin received to respond to the pandemic without any input or oversight from the legislature, who represents you.
While I appreciate that some of this spending has been on the emergency response, the vast majority of these funds have been spent on the Governor’s hand-picked projects and priorities. You, as taxpayers, do not have a voice in how your tax dollars are being spent.
In fact, the Governor’s administration has taken this authority beyond the bounds of imagination. In a recent audit of how pandemic funds are being spent, we discovered that they are now hoarding $109 million in interest earned on the money that is not yet spent. By law, these dollars must go into General Purpose Revenue (GPR) to fund the needs of our state. They are not meant to add to the Governor’s slush fund. They are breaking our own laws.
So, while the wording of the question may seem complicated, the actual question is very simple: Should one person be allowed to spend your tax dollars without any sort of oversight? Or do you think your elected representatives should have a role in this discussion? This is the question.

As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance. Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.