Evers controls a “monstrous amount” of federal funds – Empower Wisconsin
By MD Kittle
MADISON — U.S. Representative Bryan Steil was among the first to raise red flags over Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ failure to distribute federal COVID relief funds in a timely manner. The Janesville Republican’s concerns have only grown over the past two years, especially since a state auditor’s report shows Evers was slow to spend most of the $1,000,000 fund. $5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act at his disposal.
The bigger problem, Steil said, is the “monstrous amount” of money Congress sent to states under the guise of a public emergency that turned into a financial windfall for big liberal government projects.
“We continue to see the huge amount of money the federal government has allocated to state and local governments used in ways that have nothing to do with COVID. That’s what I originally warned about,” the congressman told Empower Wisconsin this week.
As of last month, Evers had spent just $541.7 million of the approximately $1.47 billion in the first installment of American Rescue Plan Act funds released last May, according to a report prepared for legislative leadership. by State Auditor Joe Chrisman. Evers had yet to spend an estimated $930.7 million.
Later this year, Wisconsin will receive the second half of its ARPA funds — and Evers will once again have control over how they are spent.
“It’s something we’re concerned about, how slowly these funds are coming out,” State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, told Empower. Wisconsin last week.
Lawmakers have accused Evers of sitting on the cash, using it as an unregulated war chest for the re-election campaign.
Steil first raised concerns about Evers’ case of the slowdowns in July 2020, more than three months after Congress passed the first CARES Act. Steil asked the governor to clarify why, according to a US Treasury Department report, only 3.8% of the $2 billion had been spent. Evers at the time responded that a lot of the money was for programs and he didn’t want to spend it until he knew if there would be another round of federal funding. But he was slow to clarify where the money was targeted.
The song remains the same almost two years later.
The Evers administration finally released a spending overview last week — after Empower Wisconsin released the auditor’s report and the Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee ordered the Legislative Audit Office to conduct a comprehensive review of the administration’s management of federal funds. To date, the state has planned to spend $2.8 billion of the aid, with an additional $1.8 billion unspent. “Plans” are different from expenditures, and the administration has been anything but detailed in accounting for the actual expenditures it has made.
The governor admitted this week that his administration could have responded better to COVID-19. He did not provide specifics, but emphasized public health.
“I just wish we had come out ahead of this and provided more help to the counties when it comes to public health,” Evers said at the Wisconsin Counties Association annual meeting on Tuesday. He did not answer questions from reporters.
Republicans have criticized many of Evers’ spending decisions, particularly because the governor has shut them out of the process. Vetoing a bill that would have given the Republican-controlled legislature input on how federal funds are spent, Evers refused, insisting his administration could move the money more quickly.
Wisconsin is one of 31 states that have given its governor and state agencies authority over contingency funds, including emergency federal grants and court settlements, without legislative interference, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Republicans are trying to change that through a state constitutional amendment.
Evers has poured a lot of money into liberal agenda items, including equity and diversity programs and increased funding for public schools that have closed in-person learning long after they were told. advised not to. Part of its $15 million grant to live entertainment venues went to owners and promoters of Madison theaters who booked a drag queen concert.
Steil said he had some heat for voting against the $1.9 trillion ARPA. He worried that state and local governments were spending taxpayers’ money badly.
“Now the proof is in the pudding,” the congressman said. “If the money had been used wisely, it would have been spent over a year ago to ensure schools were open for in-person learning. Instead, we let those funds be used for all kinds of politicians’ pet projects.
The US national debt recently topped $30 trillion, according to the US Treasury Department, as borrowing amid the pandemic skyrockets. All of this borrowing has helped drive inflation to levels not seen in over 30 years. Thus, as federal “relief” arrives, personal income is devoured by rising inflation.
“In fact, there’s so much money that it’s hard to spend it,” Steil said. “It’s a big chunk of the whole state budget. It’s a monstrous amount of money flowing through.”