MADISON — The Republican
leader of the Wisconsin Senate on Thursday called for a
veto override after Gov. Tony Evers' administration
announced a new $75 million transportation grant program
that would make funding available for public transit
projects like Milwaukee's streetcar.
Senate Majority Leader
Scott Fitzgerald called for the veto override shortly
after Evers' transportation secretary, Craig Thompson,
announced that the new $75 million grant program would
make the money available for spending on public transit
and other needs beyond just roads and bridges.
Speaker Robin Vos said he too was "seriously
considering" an override vote.
The state budget as
passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature included
$90 million for local road projects. Evers vetoed it
down to $75 million and on Thursday announced it would
be available through a new grant program.
Fitzgerald and other
Republicans oppose the streetcar. Earlier this week, a
group of 10 Republican senators wrote to Thompson saying
the money should only be available for roads and
Instead, under the grant
program it can be used for roads, bridges, public
transit, bike paths and walking trails, railroads and
"The governor is
taking money from local road construction to fund
Milwaukee's trolley to nowhere," Fitzgerald said on
Twitter. "Rural Dems should push back — veto
Vos said allowing local
road grants to go for projects like the Milwaukee
streetcar was "ludicrous."
Republicans don't have
enough votes on their own to override a veto unless at
least three Democrats would break ranks and join them.
At least three Democrats would also have to join with
all 63 Republicans in the Assembly to override a veto.
Democrats are highly
unlikely to help Republicans override an Evers veto,
even if some in rural areas are uneasy about making
money available for the Milwaukee streetcar. There
hasn't been a veto override in Wisconsin since 1985.
Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, in a statement, called
talk of a veto override a "distraction," but
didn't address whether he thought any Democrats would
Thompson defended the
grant program, saying it would allow local communities
to prioritize their most important transportation needs
and address a wide range of projects.
"We expect that
communities will submit the project they believe will
have the greatest impact on their economic development
and growth," he said.
The state will pick up
90% of the cost, with local governments covering the
remaining 10%. The program won support from groups
representing Wisconsin's counties, towns, villages and
cities. Under the program, towns will be eligible for
about $30 million, with counties able to receive about
$25 million and cities and villages eligible for around
While Fitzgerald voiced
opposition, fellow Republican Sen. Howard Marklein
praised the governor's plan, saying it "nearly
mirrors the Legislature's budget plan for local
"Our local towns
will not be paying for Milwaukee's trolley, but if
Milwaukee wants to apply for money to expand the trolley
for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, they
can do so out of their own allocation," Marklein
Milwaukee is hosting next
year's Democratic National Convention.
"We'll have to watch
the city, village and county portions closely to ensure
that rural cities, villages and counties do not lose out
to their urban counterparts," said Marklein, who
lives in Spring Green.