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Your Business Advocate: Joint Finance Committee to Begin Budget Votes

Representative Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), Co-Chair of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, expects the committee to begin voting on budget motions next week. They will be in every Tuesday and Thursday until the beginning to middle of June, depending on how deliberations go. This week they held the final public listening session in Minocqua.

JFC is comprised of 16 members with eight from each house. Of those eight, six represent the party in the majority and two from the minority party. Under the current makeup of the legislature, Republicans control 12 of the 16 seats. Therefore Republicans can do whatever they want, though agreement between the houses is not always assured. 

The committee generally takes the easy departments first and leaves proposals with greater disagreement until the end. However, there is usually a wrap-up motion at the end that can include items that effect all areas of the budget, including those already closed.

After JFC completes their work, the non-partisan Legislature Fiscal and Reference Bureaus put the committee’s product into bill form for debate of the full legislature. Amendments can still be offered and adopted by either house. Both houses must agree on an identical bill before being sent to the governor for his approval.

From there, Governor Evers will have wide authority to veto the budget in full or line-items he does not like in particular. If not drafted carefully, the governor has the power to strike words, numbers, and punctuation in both appropriation and non-appropriation text.

Partial Veto Power

The governor was first granted partial veto power via constitutional amendment in 1930. The power was broad and simply said that “Appropriation bills may be approved in whole or in part by the governor, and the part approved shall become law.”[1]

The first amendment to limit this power came not until 1990[2], after Governors Tony Early and Tommy Thompson had used the power to strike letters to create new words entirely. Voters approved the amendment to create new words with over 60% of the vote.

The latest amendment was approved by voters in 2008[3] that prohibited governors from creating a new sentence out of two or more sentences. This amendment was approved with over 70% support.

While those amendments have limited the most egregious options, the governor still has wide authority to change the bill that hits his desk. This power has frustrated legislatures under both parties – even when one party controls the governor’s office and legislature. For example, former-Governor Walker issued at least 50 partial vetoes, sometimes over 100, in each budget sent to him by fellow Republicans in the legislature.

For more information on the line-item veto, click here

[1] Wis. Const. art. V, § 10 (November 1930)

[2] Wis. Const. art. V, § 10 (1) (c) (April 1990)

[3] Wis. Const. art. V, § 10 (1) (c) (April 2008)