The new co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) sent Gov. Tony Evers a snarky Groundhog Day letter spelling out how they want him to create his 2021-23 budget, which he sends to the Legislature this month.
In the last biennial budget process, the Legislature rejected the governor’s document and crafted its own, which Evers signed after making some major vetoes. JFC co-chairs Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) and Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) began their letter reciting the plot of the movie Groundhog Day, and followed up with instructions on how Evers should write his own budget based on their example, boasting about their decisions to fund broadband and transportation while taking “care of families, children and seniors” and including a tax cut last time around.
“We encourage you to reflect on Groundhog Day and avoid a repeat of your first budget proposal. We hope you will, rather, remember the details of the legislature’s collaborative, responsible budget that you signed in 2019,” they wrote.
The budget process, which will take place the first half of this year — with the new budget by law taking effect on July 1, 2021 — may be extremely difficult given the present relationship between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature. The two branches are currently feuding, both in the Capitol and in front of the courts, over such matters as the governor’s authority to issue public health orders and mask requirements.
Wisconsin recently received positive news in revenue projections that showed the state will start the process off with nearly $1.9 billion more than expected, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. It also forecasted taking in an additional $1.2 billion more than expected during the next biennium. But that rosy news arrives amid competing priorities over how to spend the funds under divided government.
The Fiscal Bureau memo credits the start of vaccinations and the COVID-relief funding from the federal government for the positive trend. But the co-chairs give the credit to the Wisconsin Legislature.
“All of these fiscal achievements are due to legislative Republican leadership, reforms and responsible budgeting over the last decade,” the co-chairs continued in their letter. “You have the immense luxury of starting your plan with an impressive surplus because we have made extraordinary efforts to protect the state’s checkbook.”
The pair went on to criticize Evers’ previous budget, ominously adding, “Do not send the legislature another budget like your first budget that was full of tax increases, excessive spending and divisive non-fiscal policy. Our citizens deserve better. They want us to learn from the details of the past.”
Evers will give his budget address — where he unveils his plans — on Feb. 16. He plans to give the address virtually, as he did with his State of the State address in January.