GOP plans to spend federal stimulus may not be allowed

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MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – Majority of Wisconsin Republicans’ plans to spend $ 3.2 billion in federal stimulus funds may not be allowed under law or may need to be paid back, non-partisan analysis shows fast moving bills. the Legislature.

Republicans are set to pass bills that would spend the federal money the way they want, rather than the way Democratic Governor Tony Evers sees fit. The law gives the governor control over most of the money and he provided few details on how he intends to spend it. Evers has signaled he will veto Republican measures.

A set of 11 bills introduced by Republicans this week were due for a public hearing and vote in the joint finance committee of the budget drafting legislature on Wednesday. The bills specify how approximately $ 2.7 billion of state money would be spent, with an unspecified additional amount going to unemployment insurance benefits.

However, the non-partisan Tax Legislative Office has determined that three of the proposed proposals call for spending about $ 626 million in areas not permitted by federal law. In addition, a $ 1 billion property tax cut for all Wisconsin homeowners and money earmarked for UI may have to be refunded by the state, the finance office said.

The Fiscal Bureau said it appears federal law would not allow Republican proposals to withdraw $ 250 million in bonds used for transportation projects; $ 308 million in loans for local road projects; and $ 68 million to replace a statewide public safety communications system and increase the number of psychiatric beds at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.

Federal law generally allows the money to be used by 2024 to respond to the coronavirus pandemic; replace income lost due to the pandemic; investing in water, sewers and broadband infrastructure; paying essential state workers up to $ 13 an hour; and pay non-government entities that transport passengers and goods for the government.

However, no specific guidance on the use of federal money has been issued, leading the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau to say that it is not clear in many circumstances whether Republican bills would be allowed. .

The Republican spending proposals that would be allowed, according to the Tax Office, included $ 500 million for broadband expansion; $ 200 million for small businesses; $ 150 million for nursing homes and assisted living facilities; $ 75 million in tourism subsidies; $ 61 million to fight water pollution; and $ 50 million for rural economic development.

Even if the legislature passes the measures, perhaps as early as next week, the bills will likely face a veto from Evers. Asked about the GOP’s intention to come up with its own proposals, an Evers spokeswoman spoke of her vetoing a bill that would have required the legislature to approve how the money is spent.

Evers last week said that it consider spending $ 600 million of federal money to help small businesses; $ 50 million for the tourism industry; $ 200 million to modernize infrastructure, including broadband access; and $ 500 million for pandemic response efforts.

Budget committee co-chair Rep. Mark Born on Tuesday defended the continuation of Republican bills that Evers will likely veto.

“It’s his prerogative, but it’s not going to make me change my decision,” Born said.


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