MADISON — A veto from Gov. Scott Walker eliminated a budget provision that would have made it difficult for a politically connected group to win a $500,000 grant, but Walker’s spokeswoman said the move was aimed only at changing the funding source and not helping any one group.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/17XExId ) Wednesday that Walker used his veto power to eliminate a provision in the state budget calling for federal funds to pay for most of the grant. He left intact language saying the grant would be paid for with state funds.
That change allowed the grant to promote hunting and fishing to go to the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation, which was the only one to apply. Federal guidelines generally require “sporting heritage” money to be used for such things as creating shooting ranges or managing wildlife habitats, former Department of Natural Resources Secretary George Meyer said. The foundation told the DNR it planned to use the grant to pay salaries and benefits.
“This wouldn’t have been able to go forward” without Walker’s veto, Meyer said.
Walker ordered the grant revoked last week after it was revealed the foundation told state officials it had tax-exempt status when its application for that status was still pending with the IRS.
Walker spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said the veto was not aimed at helping the foundation win the grant.
“This veto has nothing to do with any particular group and is only related to the funding source for the grant,” Webster said. “As I’m sure you all are aware, the provision for this grant was added by the Legislature and not in the governor’s original budget.”
Critics have said the grant was designed for the foundation, whose parent organization endorsed Walker and whose officials include Luke Hilgemann, the former chief of staff for former Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder.
Walker said in his veto message that he was concerned that the grant’s goal of recruiting and training people to hunt, fish and trap might not be an “appropriate” use for federal funds under the Wildlife Restoration Act and the Sport Fish Restoration Act.