Wisconsin's Democratic governor vetoes Republican tax cut on two highest tax brackets and increases school funding for 400 years


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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed off on a two-year spending plan Wednesday after gutting a Republican tax cut and using his broad veto powers to increase school funding for centuries.

Evers angered Republicans with both moves, with some saying the Democratic governor was going back on deals he had made with them.

He got creative with his use of the partial veto in this budget, which is the third passed by a Republican Legislature that he's signed.

Evers reduced the GOP income tax cut from $3.5 billion to $175 million, and did away entirely with lower rates for the two highest earning brackets. He also used his partial veto power to increase how much revenue K-12 public schools can raise per student by $325 a year until 2425.

Evers took language that originally applied the $325 increase for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years and instead vetoed the “20” and the hyphen to make the end date 2425.

Evers, a former state education secretary and teacher, had proposed allowing revenue limits to increase with inflation. Under his veto, unless it's undone by a future Legislature and governor, Evers said schools will have “predictable long-term spending authority.”

“There are lots of wins here,” Evers said of the budget at a signing ceremony surrounded by Democratic lawmakers, local leaders, members of his Cabinet and others.

Wisconsin governors, both Republican and Democratic, have long used the broad partial veto power to reshape the state budget. It’s an act of gamesmanship between the governor and Legislature, as lawmakers try to craft bills in a way that are largely immune from creative vetoes.

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson holds the record for the most partial vetoes with 457 in 1991. Evers this year made 51.

In 2000, voters prohibited what was known as the “Vanna White” veto, which allowed governors to strike individual letters within words to create new meaning. And eight years later, the constitution was amended again to outlaw the “Frankenstein veto,” when the governor at the time struck words in two or more sentences to create a new sentence.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2020 struck down three of Evers' partial vetoes as being too broad, but the justices could not agree on standards to guide future vetoes. The court flips from a conservative to liberal majority in August.

Republicans blasted the latest vetoes.