Brief

Assembly to vote on new GOP bills to direct pandemic relief spending

By: - June 22, 2021 5:00 am
Looking up at the Capitol dome from far below right before the entrance door

Wisconsin State Capitol | Phil Roeder CC BY 2.0

As Republican lawmakers once again try to gain some control over how Wisconsin spends $2.5 billion in federal pandemic relief funds, the Assembly is scheduled to vote Tuesday on five bills, all of them funded from that same source.

All five measures were authored by GOP lawmakers and passed in committee on party line votes. 

Democrats have repeatedly voted against, and Gov. Tony Evers has repeatedly vetoed, previous Republican-led attempts to replace the administration’s plans for the state’s allocation under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with priorities dictated by the Legislature’s GOP majority. That pattern appears likely to continue with the new group of bills.

One twist with this batch is that all of them involve projects that Evers proposed in a futile attempt to break Republican opposition to the expansion of Medicaid in Wisconsin — pointing out that the Medicaid expansion would make money available to fund a long list of projects. 

The five bills up for a vote at Tuesday’s Assembly floor session are:

  • AB-389 — Awarding $5 million to the city of Green Bay and Brown County to relocate coal piles there. 
  • AB-390 — Awarding $4 million to Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County for an expansion project and another $11 million over two years to support the hospital’s emergency medical services, as well as $400,000 to the city of Reedsburg for improvements to its community center. 
  • AB-391 — Funding an unspecified “sufficient amount of money for the State Historical Society to keep its historic sites open and operating in the summer of 2021.” 
  •  AB-392 — Creating a new Department of Natural Resources (DNR) program to award up to $10 million a year in grants to municipalities to investigate and clean up contamination from PFAS chemicals and provide alternative water supplies if water supplies are contaminated. Municipalities would have to provide a 20% match for funding and  would waive the right to file any claims against the contamination source. 
  • AB-393 — Awarding $530,000 for a new water supply control system for the city of Waukesha, with the recipient to be named later.

Each of the bills directs the Evers administration to fund the project or program it addresses from the state’s ARPA allotment.

And each of the projects was on a list that Evers produced in May of projects that he would fund with savings obtained from accepting federal Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Evers produced the list as part of his unsuccessful attempt to persuade Republicans in the Legislature to pass the bill he offered in a special session to accept Medicaid expansion. For a limited time, under ARPA, the state’s savings if it accepts Medicaid expansion would increase to $1.6 billion.

Instead, GOP leaders gaveled in and gaveled out of the special session without acting. 

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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