Wisconsin’s ‘Veto Magic’: A 400-Year Boost for Public Education

Talk about taking advantage of fine print! Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has just locked in a 400-year funding boost for Wisconsin public schools in a move straight out of the political playbook.

Here’s the deal: Evers had a state budget sent to his desk that included a provision authorizing a funding increase for the “2024-25” school year. With the swift stroke of a veto pen, he deleted the “20” and the hyphen, transforming it to grant funding increases through the year “2425.” The result? A funding inflow for public schools that will outlive us all by a few centuries.

Thanks to this unexpected maneuver, Wisconsin school districts can now look forward to a steady stream of revenue, set to increase by $325 per student each year till 2425. This initiative could effectively snuff out the recurring tug-of-war between Democrats and Republicans during every state budget-writing cycle. Evers highlighted the significance of this move, stating it will “provide school districts with predictable long-term increases for the foreseeable future.”

The budget that was passed last week by the Republicans was significantly reshaped by more than four dozen vetoes from the Democratic Governor. Notably, Evers axed a substantial portion of the GOP’s proposed $3.5 billion tax cut, largely benefiting the state’s wealthiest residents.

The ‘line-item veto’ is a power vested in some state governors, enabling them to approve bills in their entirety but veto specific lines they find objectionable. This privilege can be used to obstruct funding for particular programs or prevent certain tax modifications.

However, Wisconsin’s line-item veto takes the cake. Thanks to the sweeping definition of this power in the state Constitution, dating back to 1930, the Governor can edit not just entire lines, but specific words, numbers, and punctuation. In short, it’s a rewrite tool.

A previous Wisconsin Governor, Patrick Lucey, leveraged this in 1973 to transform an appropriations bill to do the exact opposite of the legislature’s intent, simply by vetoing the word “not” from the phrase “not less than 50 percent.”

Though voters have slightly clipped this power, barring the governor from changing letters into new words or creating Frankenstein sentences by merging parts of different ones, the line-item veto in Wisconsin still carries considerable clout. It allows the governor to excise words within a sentence, and dramatically change the meaning.

So, here’s to Governor Evers, who has harnessed this power to secure a 400-year funding increase for public schools. That’s what you call a truly transformative veto!