By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers introduced a multimillion dollar series of bills Tuesday designed to control spring flooding, hoping to convince Republicans to reconvene the state Assembly to pass his proposals.
Assembly Republicans adjourned their two-year session in February and aren’t expected to return to Madison until the 2021-2022 session begins in January. The Senate is scheduled to meet one last time this month before adjourning its two-year session but Republicans who control that chamber almost certainly won’t spend the floor session voting on anything coming from Evers’ office.
An aide to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos didn’t immediately respond to emails asking if his caucus might consider moving the bills and whether the Assembly might reconvene to vote on them. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s aide had no immediate comment.
Evers’ spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, didn’t immediately return a message inquiring about how the governor might persuade the GOP to take up the bills.
A Republican refusal to consider the bills could play into Evers’ hand; if flooding strikes the state hard this spring he could attack Republicans for not doing enough to stop it, scoring points with his base.
Evers declared a statewide state of emergency due to widespread flooding in March 2019. The National Weather Service on Monday warned of possible minor flooding this week along the Kickapoo River in southwestern Wisconsin.
“I visited homes across our state last year and heard from the families who are asking us to help them prepare and prevent flooding, and to keep families and their homes, farms and businesses safe,” Evers said in a statement. “The state needs to start leading on this issue, and these bills are an important step at giving families and communities peace of mind and the tools they need to not only recover and rebuild, but to prevent flood damage in the future.”
The bills would set up a new flood-mitigation program within the Department of Transportation that would reimburse local governments up to half of their cost of modifying, replacing or moving culverts and bridges that are at risk of flood damage. The Department of Natural Resources would get another $10 million to bolster its municipal-flood policies, which help local governments build structures that collect storm water and groundwater.
Other bills would give local governments more state aid for rebuilding flood-damaged highways, allow people to deduct the cost of flood-insurance premiums from individual income taxes, and reduce local governments’ matching requirements for state disaster assistance.
The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection would be authorized to borrow an additional $7 million for soil and water management and to provide grants to counties for land and water conservation work. The total amount of debt authorized for that purpose would increase to $82 million.