White and yellow wildflowers fill a hill in the summertime.

Evers authorizes use of unspent bonding authority under stewardship program

Evers called out the state finance committee's anonymous objection process as he vetoed funding for earmarked projects.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that Governor Evers used his partial veto authority to give the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) access to money unused through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

“This veto will allow the Department of Natural Resources to access all unobligated stewardship bonding authority to invest in critical projects that will protect, preserve, and provide access to Wisconsin’s natural resources,” Evers wrote in his veto message.

With this veto, the budget allows lapsed Stewardship Program bonding authority to be used to fund property development, facility maintenance, and new building construction. A DNR spokesman said the agency is assessing the impact on its budget.

Gov. Evers also called out the Joint Finance Committee’s review process that allows legislators to raise anonymous objections to block Stewardship projects. He noted that “…valuable Stewardship projects have been delayed or denied leaving unused and unobligated bonding authority at the end of each year” and expressed his desire to fix this broken system.

Charles Carlin, strategic initiatives director with Gathering Waters, acknowledged the role of JFC as responsible stewards of taxpayer money, but said “…it is absolutely the case that those conversations should happen in public.”

It is unclear whether the DNR’s use of unobligated Stewardship funds would require approval from the Joint Finance Committee. Additionally, the budget that Gov. Evers signed has funding for several environmental initiatives, including money for state parks, forestry, and clean water according to reporting by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Featured image by Ken Mattison, 2021.

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