MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The administration of Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is moving ahead with plans to buy 10,000 ventilators and 1 million protective masks in the fight against the coronavirus after clashing with GOP lawmakers over whether he needed their permission to make such purchases.
Evers gave legislative leaders a bill last week that called for the purchases and also spending more than $700 million to help care for thousands of sick and jobless people in Wisconsin. The bill also would impose measures that Republicans are opposed to, such as suspending GOP-sponsored photo ID requirements for voters.
Evers’ administration on Friday had urged lawmakers to act quickly on the bill, but top Republicans told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Saturday that Evers already had the authority to buy the necessary equipment.
Evers’ chief of staff, Maggie Gau, said Saturday night that the administration has been making smaller purchases and would move forward with the large purchase of ventilators and masks.
On Sunday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 1,112 people in the state had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, up 123 from 989 the day before, and 13 had died.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.
In urging Evers to move forward with the equipment purchases. Republicans cited a conclusion by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
“Again, we implore you. Please do not wait any longer to buy ventilators and masks. Do it now,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester wrote in a letter to Evers.
Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the administration determined legislative approval would be needed because of the size of the purchase. She said the administration had hoped to get a response, or alternate proposals, from Republicans, but decided to act on its own after the fiscal bureau reached a different conclusion.