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Gov. Walker flooded with veto requests

Jun. 27, 2013
 
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talke with reporters in Madison earlier this month. Since the Legislature passed the Wisconsin budget last week, Gov. Scott Walker has been flooded with about 200 requests — urging him to scrap or save dozens of the thousands of items in the $70 billion spending plan.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talke with reporters in Madison earlier this month. Since the Legislature passed the Wisconsin budget last week, Gov. Scott Walker has been flooded with about 200 requests — urging him to scrap or save dozens of the thousands of items in the $70 billion spending plan. / Scott Bauer/Associated Press

MADISON — Save the kringle! Kick out the bounty hunters! Stop the ban on junk food bans!

Since the Legislature passed the Wisconsin budget last week, Gov. Scott Walker has been flooded with about 200 requests — urging him to scrap or save dozens of the thousands of items in the $70 billion spending plan.

Walker plans to sign the budget and release his vetoes on Sunday. He has remained largely silent on what he is targeting for changes in the budget, but that hasn’t stopped others from asking him to take action.

As of Thursday, Walker had received about 200 veto requests, primarily from voters, individual business owners, local governments, lawmakers and advocacy groups, spokesman Tom Evenson said. Most of the requests focus on items that have generated the most publicity, Evenson said, including legalizing bail bondsmen, kicking the Center for Investigative Journalism off of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, requiring collection of DNA for some felony arrests, and imposing new limits on unemployment insurance benefits.

The Associated Press filed an open records request on Tuesday for all of the veto letters received to date by Walker, but that had not been fulfilled as of Thursday.

Democrats, looking to score political points but with virtually no hope of success, are asking Walker to undo some of his top priorities in the budget, including stopping a statewide expansion of private school vouchers, allowing the sale of state-owned property, and rejecting a federally funded expansion of Medicaid.

Since Walker proposed all of those items, or worked closely with Republican legislative leaders on changes made in the budget, they are almost all certainly going to be signed into law.

But in many other areas, the Legislature added things to the budget that Walker didn’t propose. Those are typically the best places to look for possible vetoes.

One area with a big veto target is a budget provision that creates a commercial bail bondsmen program. The idea, derided by critics as allowing bounty hunters in Wisconsin, has been nearly universally opposed by judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police and even Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference is among the groups that have formally asked Walker to veto the item. He did that two years ago, when the Legislature added it, saying there had not been enough time to study the issue.

“Tying bail to a private business transaction will profit the bondsmen, while those of limited means who cannot afford the bond languish in jail awaiting trial,” wrote John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. “Our government should not enable some people to get rich at the expense of others’ freedom.”

Republican Sen. Dale Schultz, who voted against the budget, has also sent three requests to Walker for vetoes. One, which was also made by state Superintendent Tony Evers, calls for clarifying language that could lead to existing voucher schools opening new locations throughout the state that could accept students outside of new enrollment caps.

Schultz also asked Walker to veto income tax cuts, one of his top priorities in the budget. Schultz argued it is irresponsible to cut taxes by $650 million because it would result in a roughly $500 million budget deficit.

Schultz, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Democratic lawmakers all separately asked Walker to veto a portion of the budget that disallows the independent Center for Investigative Journalism to operate on campus or use professors’ work on projects.

Kicking the center off campus was included by the Legislature’s budget committee in the last motion adopted and not proposed by Walker.

A coalition of health care groups are asking Walker to remove a budget provision that prohibits local communities from enacting restrictions on the sale of food or drinks based on serving size, calories or other nutritional criteria.

The groups, which include the American Cancer Society and the Childhood Obesity Prevention Collaborative, said the provision would weaken the ability of local governments to encourage healthy eating and improve health within their own communities.

Wisconsin grocers and restaurant associations support not allowing food bans.

“Taking away consumers’ choices one city at a time does not address the underlying problem,” said Pete Hanson, lobbyist for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. “The only effective way to change consumers’ choices is to educate them on healthy lifestyles, including regular exercise and healthy dietary choices.”

Speaking of food, one budget provision that appears to have bipartisan support would name the kringle as Wisconsin’s official pastry. Three Republicans and three Democrats have sent Walker a letter asking him to spare the kringle — a large round flat pastry with a hole in the middle made predominantly in Racine County.

Making kringle the official state pastry, the lawmakers argued, “would put Racine and southeast Wisconsin on the culinary map.”

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