Gov. Tony Evers speaking with reporters at the Wisconsin Counties Association conference on Feb. 28, 2023. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)
Gov. Tony Evers expressed optimism Wednesday morning about reaching a deal with Republican leaders on increasing local government funding, just two weeks after he threatened to veto the proposed Republican bill in its entirety.
Evers’ statement comes ahead of an afternoon floor session where Assembly lawmakers are expected to vote on AB 245, despite ongoing negotiations and no announcement about specific changes they might make to the initial bill. Lead lawmakers have said amendments to the bill are expected to be introduced on the floor.
“Today, we are in a much better place than we were just two weeks ago. All parties have been willing to set differences aside, all parties have worked to operate in good faith, and all parties have come to the table committed to finding common ground — and for that, I am very grateful,” Evers said.
Two weeks ago, Evers threatened to veto the Republican bill, which would dedicate an additional $227 million to Wisconsin’s cities, towns, villages and counties to be used only for police and fire protection, emergency medical services, emergency response communications, public works and transportation. He said the Legislature could increase resources for local governments and called for lawmakers to remove a number of restrictions on local governments that were in the bill, including a requirement to meet certain public safety quotas and a ban on advisory referenda.
Evers and Democratic lawmakers have also voiced concerns about a requirement that Milwaukee and Milwaukee County go to referendum to impose an additional sales tax to address unfunded pension obligations. Local Milwaukee officials have said they are concerned that a referendum would fail, leaving the city and county without many options to prevent potential bankruptcy.
WisPolitics reports that Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) met on Monday night.
Evers said in his statement that conversations with Vos and LeMahieu have centered around “substantially increasing investments in local communities and ensuring more flexibility to local partners than is currently provided” in the bill. He said the leaders have also discussed ensuring Milwaukee and Milwaukee County “have the tools they need to be financially secure and successful.”
“As we continue these important negotiations and conversations in the weeks ahead, I am optimistic and hopeful we can find a compromise that both meets the needs of our local communities and ensures our local partners have more flexibility to make decisions that work for them,” Evers said.
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