Wisconsin GOP's coronavirus bill sets up political skirmish with Gov. Evers

MADISON — The Legislature's finance committee would have carte-blanche power to reduce state spending as part of a sweeping bill Wisconsin Republicans have proposed to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers quickly rejected the provision, setting up a political battle that could delay other benefits in the bill, including eliminating the waiting period for unemployment checks and suspending interest on property taxes.

Evers' office released the proposal Wednesday afternoon. The governor said in an interview that the finance committee language is a non-starter and Republicans must remove it to move forward.

“(The provision would allow) the Joint Finance Committee to unilaterally cut investments to health care, roads, schools, whatever they want to,” the governor said. “That to me is a political thing and doesn't do anything to help our state. That's something that I just cannot allow.”

The bill would allow the finance committee to reduce spending, suspend any statutes that would decrease state general fund tax revenues and rescind a 2% across-the-board raise for state workers slated to begin in January if the state faces a deficit in the next fiscal year.

Other provisions in the legislation would eliminate the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits and waive any interest and late-payment fees on unpaid property taxes as long as the taxes are paid by Oct. 1.

Health care workers would not have to renew their credentials while the state of emergency Evers declared on March 12 continues and nurses aides would need only 75 hours of training rather than 120 — a proposal Evers vetoed earlier this year as a separate stand-alone bill.