WAUWATOSA, Wis. - The Wisconsin Legislature versus Gov. Tony Evers, fighting over who gets to control $3.2 billion of federal COVID-19 relief money.
The funding will soon come to the state. The governor vetoed the Republican proposals on how to use those dollars, instead laying out one of his plans Thursday, April 22.
Gov. Evers said he will use $420 million of the $3.2 billion total to offer grants for small businesses.
Pouring over the numbers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a tough year at The Ruby Tap.
"It’s non-stop that you have to keep being creative and think of different things. Because otherwise, people can just go get their wine at the grocery store when they’re shopping," said co-owner Brooke Boomer. "It was not an option to close. It is our life. So, we didn’t have a choice. We were going to figure it out."
Gov. Evers visited the Wauwatosa wine bar to announce the $420 million plan for small businesses hurt by the pandemic.
The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant Program will over $5,000 grants to an estimated 84,000 businesses whose revenue ranges from $10,000 to $7 million annually.
"Help is on the way," Gov. Evers said. "Once we receive the federal funds, we’re not going to wait to get that money out the door to help small businesses restock their shelves, catch up on bills, rehire, retain workers and continue to help their customers and employees and our communities be safe, while we continue to bounce back together."
The $3.2 billion will come from the American Rescue Plan Act, of which Gov. Evers will have control. Though Republicans in the state Legislature passed a package of bills to direct where that money should go, including $1 billion in rebates based on how much property tax property owners paid.
"This idea that one person gets to decide everything when it comes to this money is not how we do things in Wisconsin government, and it’s not the way we should work to represent the people of our districts," said State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam).
The governor put a cork in that with a veto. However, both plans offered help to small businesses.
"I’ll take it. I’ll take anything," said Boomer.
If you are a small business owner, hang tight; the state is still waiting for federal guidance regarding state aid -- so applications are not being taken, yet.
Joint statement from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Sen. Maj. Leader Devin LeMahieu and Joint Finance Co-Chairs Mark Born & Howard Marklein
"It’s not surprising, but it is disappointing the governor vetoed these bills because he still hasn’t put forth a plan of his own on how to help Wisconsin with these relief funds," said Speaker Vos. "I’m glad he announced help for small businesses, but where is the rest of the money? Making vague promises in a press release is not a plan and Wisconsin deserves transparency in this decision making process."
"The governor just sent a clear message to the people of Wisconsin that they will have little to no say in how their federal tax dollars are spent," said Leader LeMahieu. "He has, once again, rejected the opportunity to work with legislators on even a basic spending plan. This is not good government."
"It is unfortunate that Governor Evers has continued his go-it-alone approach. Billions of dollars should not be unilaterally spent by one person." said Rep. Born. "Legislative Republicans advanced a package of bills that we know fund the priorities of Wisconsin residents. We also know that many of these bills include items the Governor has supported in the past, which is why this decision is so disappointing."
"The Governor’s decision to veto these bills is very disappointing. We’ve heard over and over about the need to fund roads and broadband and the Governor has not yet answered this call," said Senator Marklein. "I hope that he swiftly allocates these funds to meet the priorities of Wisconsinites."