JFC finishes work on state budget

The legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC) finished its work on the 2019-21 state budget on June 13.  The budget now heads to each house of the state legislature–Assembly first, then Senate–for consideration before heading to Gov. Evers.

The Assembly plans to take up the budget on Tuesday, June 25 with the Senate following on the 26th or 27th according to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in a press conference touting the JFC proposal.

Notably, the JFC added no new policy items or other surprises via its final wrap-up (or “999”) motion. Unlike in past budget debates, this year’s 999 motion was limited to technical changes and drafting instructions.  The K-12 education budget was unchanged from previous actions by the JFC.

Each house has the ability to make changes but both must agree on a proposal before it goes to the governor for veto consideration.  Gov. Evers has a powerful partial veto power  he can use to rewrite portions of the budget, but he cannot add additional funding/spending.  He also could potentially veto the entire budget which would be a largely unprecedented move and the process of what would happen next is cloudy.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has made comments to the effect that the legislature would not immediately return to address the budget again in such a scenario.

Since Wisconsin governors were granted the partial veto authority in 1931, no governor has vetoed an entire state budget bill.  In the event of such a veto, the budget bill could still become law if passed by a two-thirds vote of each house over the Governor’s veto. This is often referred to as a “veto override.”

Because Republicans hold a majority in each house, but do not hold the necessary two-thirds margin in either house, they would need some Democrats to vote to override the veto(es) in order for the vetoed provisions to become law.

If vetoed in its entirety, the budget bill would be returned to the house of origin–in this case the Assembly–where the process of reconsidering or attempting to override the veto would begin. If successful in the Assembly, the process would be repeated in the Senate.

If Gov. Evers uses his partial veto authority in a way that the budget is vetoed in part and approved in part, the approved portions of the budget bill would become law and vetoed portions would be returned to the house of origin–i.e., the Assembly–where the process of reconsidering or attempting to override those partial vetoes would begin as described above. Vetoed portions could become law if, notwithstanding the governor’s veto, they are passed by a two-thirds vote in both houses (i.e. overridden).  The bill could not, however, be amended at that stage.

Another potential, although seemingly unlikely, option available to the governor is to allow the budget to become law with out his signature.  An unsigned bill can become law if the Governor fails to act within a prescribed six-day period (Sundays excepted).

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