Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein
July 14, 2023

The Great Power and Responsibility of a Veto Pen

As the State Budget dust settles, we are busily analyzing how the Governor’s vetoes changed the legislative intent of the State Budget. There were 51 vetoes this session. Some were expected, some were a surprise and some simply don’t make any sense.
If you would like to read the entire veto message, it is available here. I will not recite the Governor’s vetoes line-by-line, but I do think there are a couple that you should be aware of.  The following vetoes directly impact nearly everyone who lives in the 17th Senate District. The Governor vetoed the Republican Middle Class Tax Cut, he vetoed $10 million for town roads and he increased your property taxes for the next 400 years.  Read on for more information on these vetoes:
Governor Vetoes Middle Class Tax Cut - The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) recently released a memo that tells us that as a result of the Governor’s veto of the Middle Class Tax Cut, we will have a $4 billion ending balance.  This means that $4 billion will be sitting in the state’s general fund. Instead of money going back to you, the taxpayer, it is just going to sit in our surplus. 
The $4 billion ending balance is a painful reminder of what we could have done, what should be done, with the Republican tax cut.  This massive balance is caused by the Governor’s veto of the middle class tax cut. 
We aren’t going to just spend the money because it’s there.  It belongs to the taxpayers and should be returned to them.  Under the Republican tax cut, the average taxpayer would have seen $573 in tax relief. The measly $36 each of us will receive in so-called tax relief from the Governor is a joke.
Governor Vetoes $10 million for Town Roads – In a very confusing move, the Governor cut $10 million from town General Transportation Aid (GTA) by eliminating the rate per mile increases, which means our towns will not receive a GTA increase. 
GTA for towns is used to pay for snow plowing, salting, ditch mowing, pothole patching and other safety measures. Losing the rate per mile increase will negatively impact the rural roads in our communities. I sure hope that the Governor didn’t realize what he was doing by vetoing these funds. I hope it was a mistake. He has literally put our safety at risk.
In his veto message, the Governor said: “I am partially vetoing the section to delete the mileage aid payment increases because I object to providing further increases to mileage aid when the disparate impact of 2011 Wisconsin Act 32 on the mileage aid versus share of cost aid components of the general transportation aids formula remains unaddressed.  The nearly 6.0 percent reduction signed into law by 2011 Wisconsin Act 32 fell entirely on share of cost awardees in the formula.  As a result of my veto, this disparate treatment based on the formula component that a locality relies upon is reduced.  My veto also retains the 2 percent increases in funding for both calendar year 2024 and calendar year 2025 for the general transportation aids program as provided by this section.”
So, in plain language, the Governor decided to punish towns today for a funding reduction that happened in 2011. What’s even worse is that the towns did not benefit from the change in 2011, but they are now the scapegoats for a policy that the Governor didn’t like. Our local, rural town roads will be less safe as a result of this veto. This just doesn’t make sense.
Governor Increases Property Taxes for the next 400 years - Finally, the Governor edited numbers to guarantee automatic spending increases for public school funding for the next 400 years – until 2425.  He crossed out a couple of numbers to create the year 2425.
This veto is especially frustrating because the legislature negotiated the K-12 funding package directly with the Governor and we thought we had good faith agreement. I guess not. 
It shouldn’t surprise me, then, to also note that the Governor vetoed several projects for northern Wisconsin one week after he said he supported them. My colleague, Senator Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron) said that the Governor told a reporter, on video, that he supported funding to improve Pattison and Amnicon Falls State Parks and then he vetoed them. Why would he veto this positive investment of $2.1 million?
My colleagues and I in the State Senate are discussing whether we will attempt to override the Governor’s vetoes. I recognize that the Governor has a very powerful veto pen. Again, some of the vetoes were expected, but some were a surprise and some simply don’t make any sense.
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.