Wisconsin Legislature power over federal money; measure passes

FILE - Photo taken on March 17, 2020 shows U.S. dollar banknotes in Washington D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images)

The power to spend federal money sent to Wisconsin would be taken away from the governor and given to the Legislature under a Republican-sponsored constitutional amendment passed Wednesday by the state Assembly.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers can't veto the amendment, which the Senate approved earlier this month. The Assembly tweaked the measure, so the Senate will have to vote on it again.

The full Legislature would have to approve it again next session before it would be put on a statewide ballot for voter consideration as soon as 2023.

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said it was "unconscionable" to not have the Legislature involved with how the coronavirus money from the federal government was spent. Evers and Democrats said having to get lawmakers’ approval would add a level of bureaucracy and slow down the spending of the funds.

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Evers vetoed a Republican bill last year that would have required the Legislature to sign off on his plans for spending $4.5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money coming to the state. He also vetoed a similar bill that would have given the Legislature control over how federal coronavirus stimulus dollars are spent.

The proposal would apply to all federal money that comes into Wisconsin, not just the funding for coronavirus relief efforts.

The amendment would require a joint committee of the Legislature to approve the spending by any executive brand official or department of any federal money.

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