One of the Republicans in charge of the legislature’s audit committee made strong accusations against Gov. Tony Evers’ administration over nearly $100 million in COVID-19 relief interest.
Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, on Tuesday, grilled the Secretary of the Department of Administration, Kathy Blumenfeld, over an audit from December of last year that shows the state accrued $97.2 million in interest on the $3 billion the federal government sent Wisconsin as part of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in the American Rescue Plan.
Wimberger and other Republican lawmakers say the $97 million should be returned to the state’s general fund.
But Blumenfeld and the Evers’ Administration want to keep the money in a special account, which Wimberger said the governor wants to spend on his own.
“It just seems like the things that the DOA is doing is over the edge. It’s beyond awful. And who is personally responsible, and whether the agency is responsible, I guess it’s up in the air,” Wimberger said during a hearing.
“We feel confident in our position,” Blumenfeld told lawmakers. “These funds were received by the federal government, and therefore they belong to the federal appropriation. We don’t feel like we have the statutory authority to transfer them to the general fund.”
Blumenfeld said she and the DOA are waiting for clarification as to how the money can be spent.
Republican lawmakers have been advocating for years to have some control over how Wisconsin spends its federal money. Those calls ramped up after the pandemic and a string of questions about how the Evers Administration spent the billions of dollars the state received.
Wimberger said allowing the governor to hoard all of Wisconsin’s federal money is dangerous.
“If the federal government can give the state money, and the governor is in control of all the money that’s given by the federal government, and then can accrue interest in a way that is untouchable by the legislature or the there’s no power of the person anymore, there is essentially a shadow government where the executive branch has control of not only federal money but in an untouchable interest account to the tune of $100 million dollars in growing so far,” Wimberger said.