Two Constitutional Questions on Your August Ballot

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Two Constitutional Questions on Your August Ballot

June 29, 2024 - 09:54
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Should we restore the legislature’s role in spending decisions?

In short order, some voters will receive absentee ballots for the August 13, 2024 election and there are two State of Wisconsin Referendum Questions that are on your ballot. The wording of these questions is rather confusing, so I thought I would share more information to help you make a decision on these votes.

Both of the questions on your ballot ask you to decide whether the legislature should have a role in decisions related to the spending of federal funding sent to Wisconsin. This is a relevant question no matter who is Governor and which political party is in the majority. One of the legislature’s primary functions is to oversee the spending of public dollars. This “power of the purse” is widely understood as the job of the legislature, but legislators in Wisconsin gave up part of this responsibility nearly 100 years ago during the Great Depression.

In 1931, a law was enacted that laid the groundwork for the eventual wholesale delegation of the legislature’s authority over federal funding to the Governor and executive branch. By the 1940s, the legislature had completely abdicated this important role, now an unfortunate status quo that we take for granted. The rationale was that the country was in crisis and the federal funding was needed to address the crisis, but communications among legislators was slow. That may have been true in the 1940’s, but it is not true now.

This argument no longer applies as modern technology makes it practical for legislators to review spending requests and act quickly.

In addition, the legislature represents people and communities from every corner of the state. When spending decisions are made, everyone deserves a voice via their elected officials. Right now, the Governor makes decisions about these funds without equal input or representation. This constitutional amendment would enable greater public participation in decisions related to non-routine federal monies.

We need to amend our constitution to restore the legislature’s role in spending decisions related to non-routine federal funding. This change will return Wisconsin law to where we started in 1848 and provide a voice for every Wisconsinite, no matter who is in the Governor’s office.

During the COVID pandemic, billions of dollars were sent to Wisconsin by the federal government. The Governor has had unilateral control over these dollars and has spent them however he wants to without any input from the legislature. He has funded pet projects and politically-motivated ideas. Some of this funding is well-spent, but some is not – and all of it is spent in a way that is most politically advantageous to the Governor. I would rather these funds be discussed and distributed with input from legislators from every corner of our state. There is still a billion dollars of unspent funding sitting in the Governor’s couch cushions that should be distributed to our communities. But he’s holding onto it. Why?

Please consider the implications of this question for the future if roles are reversed. If a Republican were Governor and Democrats hold the majority in the legislature, should the Republican Governor be able to make unilateral decisions without input from legislators?

You get to decide. Do you think the legislature should have a role in deciding how federal monies are spent?

Official Question #1: “Delegation of appropriation power. Shall section 35 (1) of article IV of the constitution be created to provide that the legislature may not delegate its sole power to determine how moneys shall be appropriated?”

Translation of Question #1: Do you think the legislature should be required to play a role in how taxpayer dollars are spent in Wisconsin?

YES vote – the legislature should have a role in deciding how tax dollars are spent. They should not be able to give this role away to the executive branch. In other words – vote YES – if you want the legislature to be accountable for spending tax dollars.

NO vote – the legislature should not be required to have a role in spending tax dollars. In other words – vote NO – if you are OK with the legislature delegating the power of the purse to the executive branch.

Official Question #2: “Allocation of federal moneys. Shall section 35 (2) of article IV of the constitution be created to prohibit the governor from allocating any federal moneys the governor accepts on behalf of the state without the approval of the legislature by joint resolution or as provided by legislative rule?”

Translation of Question #2: Do you think the Governor should be required to have legislative approval for the spending of federal funding that is sent to Wisconsin?

YES vote – the legislature must approve all spending of federal funding that is sent to Wisconsin.

NO vote – the Governor should continue to spend federal funding that is sent to Wisconsin without legislative approval.

I hope this information is helpful as you prepare to cast your votes. As always, if you need assistance with any state-related matters, please call our team at the State Capitol – 608-266-0703 – or email me – My team is ready, and willing, to help navigate your state government, clear obstacles and receive your input.

There is 1 Comment

Yes, in a Republic the elected representatives should decide how the money extorted from us and future generations is spent, not the dictator.

Spread the word, the people's representatives need to determine how this money gets spent, not the dictator. In addition, we need to stop the Federal government from doling out money where they likely get votes.

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