Robin Vos: It Is Ok To Phone IT In!

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) has been in a running dispute, via the media, with paralyzed and wheel chair bound State Representative Jimmy Anderson (D – Madison). Rep. Anderson would like to call into committee meetings when they run late and because of health issues he has to get out of his wheel chair.

Not so fast says Speaker Vos. That’s against the Assembly rules and is rude to the other members of the committee. Note…it’s rules…not law…and the Assembly can amend their rules at any time. The state Senate allows members to attend via phone.

btw: there is no reason that the Assembly does the people’s business late into the night. Both committee meetings and assembly meetings should run at reasonable business hours to start with…but either way there is no reason that the Assembly couldn’t and shouldn’t accommodate Rep. Anderson.

Particularly given this:

The president appeared caught off-guard by China’s tariff increase, and was angry when he gathered with his trade team in the Oval Office before departing for France…

Administration officials, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and adviser Peter Navarro, discussed potential retaliatory options. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, returning from vacation, joined by phone.

emphasis mine

Apparently the president isn’t insulted or doesn’t consider it rude when his cabinet members join a meeting via phone.

So…Assembly Speaker Vos! Do the right thing and accommodate Rep. Anderson…don’t make this a petty partisan thing…that it appears you are making it into.

GOP Targets Governor’s Veto Power Because Evers Dared To Use It!

As part of passage of the Wisconsin State Biennial Budget, Governor Tony Evers (Democrat) used his veto pen a number of times to change items in the Republican drafted budget to better fit his vision for the state.

Wisconsin’s governors have the most powerful budget veto pens of any of the governor in the US. Using the veto, a governor can cross out words or sentences to change the meaning of budget items.

In this case Governor Evers crossed out a few things that actually allowed for an increase in spending in some areas. And the whole GOP leadership in the state legislature came unglued…despite the fact that governors of both parties have been doing the same thing for decades.

Republican lawmakers want a longtime — if controversial — power of Wisconsin governors to be taken away from Tony Evers, whose predecessors in both parties for decades have used their veto pen to increase spending in state budgets over what lawmakers approved.

Governors used vetoes to increase state spending above levels set by lawmakers 31 times since 1991 and increased bonding levels seven times during that time, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

Republicans are proposing to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to bar Evers and future governors from issuing such vetoes after Evers steered $65 million more in funding to schools in the state budget than what lawmakers approved.

And why do you suppose they are calling for a change now?

Republican Sen. David Craig of Big Bend acknowledged Wednesday it was Evers’ $65 million in additional spending and not Walker’s $250 million in more borrowing that prompted him to propose an amendment to the constitution but said his reasons were not tied to Evers’ political party.

“The structure of the way that the governor did this veto certainly triggered something in me that hasn’t been triggered in the past, but I fully expect we’ll have a Republican governor one day, and am I hamstringing that Republican governor? Absolutely I am,” Craig said in an interview. 

Now…given the fact that the GOP legislature passed any number of laws restricting the power of the governor during their lame duck session between the November elections and the governor’s inauguration…and then refused to use the governor’s proposed budget and instead writing their own just a month or so ago…Sen. Craig’s denial that this was anything but a partisan move…is bullshit.

I am not opposed to the legislature reviewing…and amending the governor’s veto power if necessary. I object to the blatant manner in which they are doing it…and the fact that…yes…indeed it is an attack on the Democratic administration.

So, if the Republicans really want to do this…I’d suggest that instead of floating their own little bill…they put together a joint bipartisan committee to determine best practices for budget development and veto authority…based on Wisconsin’s experience…and other similarly situated states as well. And then put together a bipartisan bill proposing a viable and workable amendment. Enough with the hogwash.

side note: an additional $65 million for education doesn’t seem like something to get upset about…

WI State GOP Call For Veto Override

Man oh man, you can almost hear the sphincters snap shut when Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos heard that state budget transportation dollars might be available for the Milwaukee Street Car (aka the Hop).

You know the street car? The one the state legislatively prohibits from extending beyond the city limits. The one that the county can’t contribute to for the same reason? The one that everyone opposed derisively calls the ‘trolley’? Yeah…that one.

Well, despite the fact that the budget that was passed was essentially the one written by the GOP legislators…and signed with some gubernatorial vetoes (we’ll address that in another post)…the fact that someone in the governor’s office mentioned street car and budget transportation money in the same breath caused an uproar. Despite not raising the specter of veto overrides before now…all of a sudden the extra transportation money is getting extra attention.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican from Juneau, called for the attempt to override the veto just after the Democratic governor’s administration outlined how it planned to spend $75 million in transportation funds. 

Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson left open the possibility that some of the money could go toward Milwaukee’s streetcar — a project Fitzgerald and other Republicans oppose. 

It’s not clear that any of the money would wind up going to the streetcar, known as The Hop. An aide to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett implied the city wouldn’t try to use the money for the streetcar.

But even the possibility of the funds going toward it was enough for Fitzgerald to call for a veto override — an idea he has not said he would pursue before. 

“The governor is taking money from local road construction to fund Milwaukee’s trolley to nowhere,” Fitzgerald wrote on Twitter. “Rural Dems should push back — veto override!”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester said he was interested in following that path as well. 

“It’s simply ludicrous that the governor would turn his back on Wisconsin drivers everywhere and allow these local road grants to go to projects like the Milwaukee streetcar,” he said in a statement. “We’re seriously considering a veto override.”

Overriding any of Evers’ 78 budget vetoes would require approval from two-thirds of lawmakers in both houses.

For money to go to the streetcar, Milwaukee officials would need to apply for the money for that purpose. A panel being set up by the state Department of Transportation would need to approve it.

But Barrett spokeswoman Jodie Tabak indicated the city would seek the funds for roads, not the streetcar. 

“Our plan is to seek our fair share to repair local roads,” she said by email. 

I still don’t quite understand the GOP’s animosity to the street car. Yes…so far it goes not much of anywhere but it does cover some of the most densely populated areas of the city, a good portion of the economic district of the city, the intermodal station (Amtrak and buses), and the Milwaukee Market (one of the Third Ward’s most popular destinations). And as I’ve stated before the interstate highways didn’t go much of anywhere initially either. It took decades to realize their potential…and the same with the railroads themselves in the 19th Century.

And I don’t quite get their continued animosity to the City of Milwaukee and by extension Milwaukee County. If they’d just prefer to give us back the sales taxes and income taxes that we send to Madison in their entirety, we wouldn’t need too much help from Madison.

But here we are…the money is extra money for transportation taken from the general funds and not from the transportation budget. The governor’s veto reduced it from $90 million to $75 million. It has to be applied for and the state can turn down the requests. The city has stated it won’t apply for state funds for the street car. So the story should be done! But this plays well out state to those who fear Milwaukee and still think it is a drain on the state…despite being the exact opposite.

GOP lawmakers argued none of the money should go toward the streetcar or transit projects.

“The intent of the Legislature’s budget was to invest in roads and bridges — pure and simple,” 10 Republican senators wrote in a letter to Thompson this week. 

So Sen. Fitzgerald and Rep. Vos should just stand down…it’s a tempest in a tea pot of their own design.

But just how much money are we actually talking about?

Of the $75 million, about $29 million will go to towns, about $27 million to counties and about $19 million to cities and villages

emphasis mine

Given that $19 million needs to be split up among the most deserving projects from all of Wisconsin’s cities and villages…it doesn’t even seem worth the effort for Milwaukee to apply.