Wisconsin Assembly Speaker explains how federal COVID relief has a negative impact on other legislation

There are some little-publicized requirements that come with the millions in federal coronavirus relief money, including one that is slowing down legislation supported by Wisconsin Farmers. 

The Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly Robin Vos says there’s a downside to Wisconsin getting federal coronavirus relief. “We are really hampered by the ability to spend state dollars because it creates this maintenance-of-effort requirement for us to spend money in other areas of the budget.”

Vos says for the first time in history, the state has one person who has been able to use federal dollars like a private checkbook with no legislative oversight.  And he says Governor Tony Evers’ decisions with those federal dollars are making it hard to pass state spending bills. “Part of the challenge is when he spends that money, it requires the Legislature under federal law, even though we had no say in taking the money, to expend dollars in parts of the budget that we might agree with or we might not”

Vos told the Dairy Business Association that’s one reason the nitrates program which includes the creation of a nitrogen optimization pilot program, crop insurance rebates for cover crops, and funding a new hydrogeologist position is not moving very fast.

Vos says the proposed nitrates package might still pass this session. “So, some legislators are proposing to use one-time dollars out of a segregated account, which technically is state dollars because it comes from state resources, but doesn’t count towards this maintenance-of-effort requirement. So, I’ve talked to Chairman (Gary) Tauchen. I think that’s kind of his intention to try to move legislation.”

Speaker Vos discussed legislative issues Tuesday with dairy farmers during the Dairy Business Association’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol.

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