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Republicans say governor desperate to shift PFAS blame

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(The Center Square) – The Republicans who control Wisconsin’s budget-writing arm of the legislature say Gov. Tony Evers has no one else to blame but himself for the lack of money to fight PFAS contamination.

Evers on Tuesday called for a special meeting of the Joint Finance Committee, with orders for lawmakers to hand him the $125 million that’s been earmarked for PFAS clean-up.

“The governor doesn’t have the power to compel us to meet,” JFC co-chair Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, told reporters at the Capitol.

Evers and Democrats are accusing legislative Republicans of playing games with clean water in Wisconsin and accusing JFC specifically of standing in the governor’s way.

“There is simply no excuse for the fact that investments that can help them are still sitting in Madison because Republicans won’t release them,” Evers said in a statement. “Wisconsinites are sick and tired of partisan games and politics, and I am, too – this has to end.”

JFC’s other co-chair, Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said Evers created this situation when he vetoed the PFAS plan both Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed to.

“The governor knew the way to support this program and get the money out to the folks that needed it. He could have signed the bill. The rest of this is, just really, I think, desperation from him to make it look like it’s someone else’s fault,” Born said.

“We’re not holding anything up,” Marklein added. “The governor vetoed those bills. Co-chair Born I sent a letter to the governor last month, and we were pretty explicit in that letter…and said ‘governor, if you’re serious about this, sign the bill.’ And subsequent to that, of course, he vetoed the bill.”

Evers also vetoed a plan that would have sent $15 million to hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls to help pay for more emergency room access after two of the cities’ hospitals closed in March.

Evers also complained that Marklein and Born were withholding that money. But, once again, the two said Evers vetoed that legislation and is the one to blame for a lack of money.

“Again, he muddied the waters with the full veto and partial veto of the two bills, and it’s making it more difficult to work on it. He’s also trying to expand the use of the money way beyond those two counties that had the impacts of those closed hospitals,” Born said “That’s definitely a non-starter for the legislature. We need to focus on Eau Claire and Chippewa County.”

Born and Marklein said they don’t know when either the PFAS money or the hospital money could be released. He said Republicans don’t have enough votes to override the governor’s vetoes, and the governor is refusing to compromise.

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