Tony Evers, the Democratic governor of Wisconsin, pulled a slick power move recently to increase funding for schools in his state for the next 400 years.
Wisconsin state law provides governors with broad veto abilities, and he certainly used them to his full advantage with a recent bill.
Evers, who is a former teacher and education secretary, used a partial veto to both sign a new law into the state budget, while increasing the amount of revenue that K-12 public schools are able to raise on a per-student basis.
The state’s Republican-led Legislature passed a budget that included a revenue cap of $325 per student for the next two school years, 2023-2024 and 2024-2025. Evers very creatively edited out the “2,” “0” and hyphen in the second school year so that the new end date of the program became 2425.
He wasn’t done there, though. He also reduced the income tax cut Republicans included in the budget to $175 million – half of the $3.5 billion the GOP passed – along with also lowering the rates on the state’s two highest earning brackets.
Evers was certainly aware of what state law does and doesn’t allow him to do when editing bills.
Back in 1990, voters in Wisconsin outlawed what is referred to as the “Vanna White” veto. Before this time, governors were able to strike out individual letters in certain words so they could create completely new meanings.
Then, in 2008, Wisconsin amended its state constitution to prohibit what was known as the “Frankenstein veto.” This prevented governors from being able to cross out numbers and words to create a completely new sentence from two or more sentences in the original bill.
That being said, Evers still has the ability to delete full sentences, cross out individual words within one sentence, or remove individual digits to create entirely new numbers – as he did in this case.
The outcome is that instead of the increased per-student revenue numbers applying to just the next two school years, they now apply for the next 402 years.
While Democrats certainly applauded these moves, they angered Republicans in the state.
The executive director of Voters for Tomorrow, Santiago Mayer, took to Twitter to share his enthusiasm for what Evers did. He tweeted:
“Gov. Tony Evers in Wisconsin used his veto power to grant Wisconsin schools increased funding through 2425. This is what creatively fighting for youth looks like. Thank you, @GovEvers.”
Republicans, though, were none too happy.
Will Flanders, who works at the non-profit Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty as its research director, tweeted:
“Whether you like the outcome or not, I think most could agree that changing the intent of the legislature from the school year 2024-25 to the year 2425 is undemocratic. And yes, I’m aware Republican governors have done similar things. Wisconsin’s line item veto is absurd.”
Robin Vos, who serves as the speaker of the state Assembly, posted a statement to Twitter that read:
“Legislative Republicans worked tirelessly over the last few months to block Governor Evers’ liberal tax and spending agenda. Unfortunately, because of his powerful veto authority, he reinstated some of it today.”