Currently Gov. Evers Controls Federal Funds
Sponsors of the measure said the legislature was better equipped to distribute federal dollars because they come from a variety of backgrounds.
SPRING GREEN (WKOW) — Republican lawmakers want to change the Wisconsin constitution. They held a hearing Tuesday on a joint resolution that would give the legislature oversight of federal funds that come into the state.
In order to change the Wisconsin constitution, lawmakers would need to pass the resolution in two consecutive legislatures. From there, the question would go before voters in a statewide referendum.
“You have citizen legislators who are experts in their field and represent parts of the state that have expertise in different parts where we could use these federal funds,” said Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield).
Kooyenga said that process was proof their effort was more than a partisan power grab.
“We don’t know who the governor’s gonna be when this legislation passes three, four years from now,” Kooyenga said. “What we do know is that there’s not one person in this six-million-person who knows everything about agriculture and transportation and education issues.”
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers dropped by a downtown bookstore in Spring Green Tuesday as he visited a number of small businesses who received grants the governor’s office distributed over the past year with federal pandemic relief money. According to his office, Evers has issued $240 million in grants to about 55,000 businesses throughout the state. Distributed in three phases, the grants ranged between $2,500 and $20,000.
Evers said the ‘We’re All In’ program was proof the system in place was allowing businesses in need to get help with minimal red tape. “I think it’s worked out pretty well during this pandemic, frankly,” Evers said. “We’ve been able to- it’s not that [legislators have] been kept in the dark. We let people know what we’re doing.”
Evers said he worried about giving delegation duties to the legislature would lead to political bickering slowing down the process of getting federal aid to those seeking it. “Think about how the differences of opinion in the legislature around vaccines,” Evers said. “Do we really want a legislative discussion about ‘well should we order vaccines for the state of Wisconsin or not?’”
Kooyenga said he got the idea for the amendment from a friend in the Kentucky Senate. Lawmakers there took control of federal funds away from the governor as part of the commonwealth’s budget process last year. Originally, Wisconsin law gave the legislature oversight of federal money coming into the state. That changed in the 1930s when the legislature gave that power to the governor during The Great Depression, according to a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.