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Business lobby challenges Evers’ veto that allows for school funding increases for 400 years


Business lobby challenges Evers’ veto that allows for school funding increases for 400 years

Apr 15, 2024 | 5:47 pm ET
By Baylor Spears
Business lobby challenges Evers’ veto that allows for school funding increases for 400 years
Gov. Tony Evers after signing the 2023-25 budget bill with 51 partial vetoes on July 5, 2023. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)

The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce — the state’s largest business lobby group — filed a lawsuit Monday asking that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto that extended school funding increases for the next 400 years be declared unconstitutional. 

Attorneys for the organization are representing two Wisconsin taxpayers, Jeffery A. LeMieux, a retired professor, and David T. DeValk, a Fox Valley substitute teacher, in the lawsuit. They’re asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear the case directly. 

“No Wisconsin governor has the authority to strike individual letters or digits to form a new word or number, except when reducing appropriations,” WMC Litigation Center Executive Director Scott Rosenow said in a statement. “This action is not only unconstitutional on its face, but it is undemocratic because this specific partial veto allows school districts to raise property taxes for the next 400 years without voter approval.”

School districts in Wisconsin cannot levy property taxes beyond their revenue limit without approval from taxpayers or without lawmakers writing an increase into law.

When Republican lawmakers sent the state’s 2023-25 biennial budget to Evers, they included a $325 increase to schools’ revenue limits in both the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years. Evers — seeking to give school ongoing, predictable funding increases — struck two digits to create an annual increase through 2425.

Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback criticized the lawsuit in a statement.

“Republicans and their allies will stop at nothing to take away resources from our kids and our public schools,” Cudaback said. “Republicans’ latest lawsuit aims to strip over $300 from every student at every public school in Wisconsin every year for the foreseeable future even as millions of Wisconsinites are being forced to raise their own property taxes to help our schools make ends meet.”

Republicans criticized Evers’ veto heavily at the time and took further action. The Senate voted to override the veto last year, while the Assembly, lacking a Republican two-thirds majority has so far not tried to do so. GOP lawmakers also introduced a constitutional amendment proposal to further limit the governor’s veto power. 

The lawsuit argues that the veto was a “Vanna White” veto, and thus unconstitutional. A constitutional amendment adopted in 1990 prohibited governors from eliminating single letters within words.

The WMC petition asks the Court to determine whether the state Constitution forbids a governor from deleting digits in an enrolled bill to create a new year and whether the governor exceeded the partial veto power by “deleting language in an enrolled bill to create a longer duration than the one that the legislature approved.”