Gov Vetoes 2 Digits, Extends School Funding for 400 Years

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers gets creative with partial veto power
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2023 4:48 AM CDT
Gov. Vetoes 2 Digits, Extends School Funding for 400 Years
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signs a two-year spending plan into law, Wednesday, July 5, 2023.   (AP Photo/Harm Venhuizen)

Governors of Wisconsin have an unusual "partial veto" power that allows them to remove letters, numbers, and punctuation from legislation—and Gov. Tony Evers used it this week to extend a public school funding increase for an extra 400 years. The Democratic governor removed the "20" and the hyphen from a reference to the 2024-25 school year in a two-year budget bill, extending a $325-per-student annual increase until 2425, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The governor made dozens of other changes to the bill sent to him from the Republican-controlled legislature, including the removal of a tax cut for the state's wealthiest residents.

It would take a two-thirds supermajority for the state legislature to override Evers' veto and Republicans don't have enough votes. The partial veto power was introduced in a 1930 constitutional amendment and there has been a "longstanding act of gamesmanship" over the budget, with lawmakers attempting to write legislation immune to "creative" uses of the veto, the AP reports. In 2017, then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, used the partial veto to extend a state program from 2018 to 3018. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican who was in power from 1987 to 2001, was fond of the so-called "Vanna White" veto, which allowed him to strike letters inside words to make new words, but voters removed that power in 1990.

In 2008, voters also removed the "Frankenstein" veto power, barring governors from creating new sentences from parts of other sentences. Republicans are threatening legal challenges to Evers' latest use of the partial veto, though former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, describes the move as "masterful" and something that Republicans should have seen coming, the AP reports. Doyle notes that Evers has effectively restored an automatic school funding increase that was introduced in the 1990s and removed by Walker decades later. (More Wisconsin stories.)

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