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Assembly set to vote on Republicans’ COVID spending bills

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican legislators were poised Tuesday to take another step toward ripping control of billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

The state is in line to receive $3.2 billion in federal stimulus money and, by law, the dollars will be at Evers’ disposal. But Republicans have been loudly demanding they should have a say in the spending, saying that would create more transparency and accountability.

The Assembly was set to approve a package of GOP bills that would specify how about $2.7 billion of the stimulus would be spent. The proposals include plans for a $1 billion property tax cut; $200 million for small businesses; $75 million for tourism grants; $150 million for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities; $308 million for local roads; $250 million to pay off transportation bonds; and $61 million for lead service line replacements and measures to control water pollution.

Other proposals in the package would send an unknown amount of money toward unemployment benefits and eliminate the state tax on sales at brew pubs, movie theaters, bars, restaurants, amusement parks and resorts from June 1 through Aug. 31.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has sounded some warning bells about the bills. The package calls for spending about $626 million on areas possibly not allowed under federal law, including retiring the transportation bonds and local road work. The state also may have to repay the property tax cut and the money earmarked for unemployment, the bureau said.

Specific guidelines on how the federal money could be used haven’t been issued, though, leaving it unclear whether the GOP bills would be allowed, the bureau said.

The bills appear doomed anyway. Evers has his own plans for the money and has signaled he’ll veto the package if it reaches his desk.

The governor wants to spend $600 million on small businesses, $50 million on tourism, $200 million on infrastructure and $500 million on pandemic response measures.

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