The vote to override Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of the bill failed along party lines. The boost will remain until its original September expiration date.
Not many Democratic Assembly representatives spoke during Tuesday’s extraordinary floor session during which Republicans tried to override Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of a bill to end federal unemployment benefits, which are already scheduled to end in September.
The general lack of effort probably came because they knew it was pointless, a political stunt.
Democrats cited statistics and studies about why Wisconsin is short of workers—it’s an issue that’s been around much longer than the $300-a-week unemployment benefits made possible by federal COVID-19 relief measures—and Republicans responded with anecdotes and arguments that “people don’t want to work” because they’d rather sit at home and make the equivalent of $16.75 per hour on unemployment.
”This whole thing is nothing more than an exercise in futility,” Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) said. “Nothing more than a political game.”
Their Republican colleagues likely already knew that they would not get the two-thirds votes required to override the veto. The vote failed 59-37, along party lines.
RELATED: GOP Lawmakers Didn’t Pass a Bill for 300 Days During COVID. Now They Want to Take $300 per Week From the Unemployed.
Even if the vote didn’t fall short, removing the federal unemployment benefit probably wouldn’t make any difference with Wisconsin’s worker shortage, if other states that have prematurely ended the benefit are any indication. Aside from a few urban hubs, Wisconsin’s working population has been decreasing since 2010. The labor market was tight pre-pandemic and it’s even tighter now for a variety of reasons.
And now that workers have options, they don’t need to work for employers who don’t respect them or their labor.
During his floor remarks, Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) said he was struggling to find workers and added that one restaurant owner told him she had to bus tables because she was so short-staffed.
“It’s no surprise that [Schraa] is struggling to retain workers. I certainly wouldn’t want to work for you,” Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) responded. “It is an honor to bus tables at a restaurant. If I could pay every single one of my employees more than everyone in here makes, I absolutely would.”
The Republican-led legislature has ignored other calls to address the situation by helping people access health care, (by expanding BadgerCare), child care, senior care, transportation, job training, or connecting them with employers.
The Assembly’s extraordinary session—ordered by lawmakers—was not the only Tuesday meeting that resulted in no tangible action beyond political posturing. Evers also called a special session for Republicans to increase school funding, which was left largely flat in the 2021-23 state budget. Using his partial veto powers as he signed the budget, Evers blocked a transfer of $550 million to the state’s rainy day fund, leaving it in the state’s general fund to be used immediately. He requested lawmakers use that chunk of money on schools.
However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) gaveled the session in and out without fanfare, drawing ire from Evers.
“It’s breathtaking, frankly, that Republicans had the chance to do the right thing, and do what’s best for our kids and they chose to play politics instead,” Evers said in a statement.