The budget debate continues at the state capitol. Late Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Finance worked through most of the remaining items on its agenda. So far, the GOP-controlled committee has rejected most of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers initiatives.
In one of the biggest developments Tuesday, Republicans proposed $1.9 billion on state building projects. That compares to the $2.5 billion that Evers wanted to spend. Republicans on the committee did support one of the governor's initiatives: A plan to extend the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) stewardship program for another two years.
The DNR can borrow money to acquire land, develop recreational facilities, and even give grants to conservation groups to help them buy land. This is all because of something established back in the '80s — the stewardship program. But the program was set to expire next year.
So Evers, in his biennial budget plan, proposed $42.6 million in additional borrowing. Republicans backed it. The GOP members of the finance committee voted Tuesday evening to keep the Democratic governor's proposed extension in the budget. That’s despite Republicans have long criticized the stewardship program, saying it places too much land under government control and racks up too much debt.
Joint Finance still needs to act on a tax cut proposal. That's expected to happen on Thursday. Once the committee is done with its version of the budget, the document goes to the Legislature. Evers could veto the entire package, if he wishes.