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Taxpayers Challenge Undemocratic & Unconstitutional “400-Year Veto”

Lawsuit Challenges Illegal Tax Increase as Wisconsinites File Their Taxes

MADISON – Two Wisconsin taxpayers filed a lawsuit on Monday – otherwise known as Tax Day – challenging an unlawful partial veto from Gov. Tony Evers in the most recent state budget. This imaginative veto would allow property taxes to increase exponentially for more than 400 years – significantly longer than the Legislature’s intent of just the next two fiscal years.

At issue is Gov. Evers’ use of the so-called “Vanna White” or “pick-a-letter” veto. The governor creatively eliminated specific numbers in a portion of the budget bill that was meant to increase the property tax levy limit for school districts in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscal years. By striking individual digits, the levy limit would instead be increased from the years 2023 to 2425 – or four centuries into the future.

Wisconsin voters, however, approved a constitutional amendment in 1990 banning this type of veto and limiting the governor’s authority. This followed the Wisconsin Legislature approving the amendment in 1988 and 1989 with bipartisan support.

“No Wisconsin governor has the authority to strike individual letters or digits to form a new word or number, except when reducing appropriations,” said WMC Litigation Center Executive Director Scott Rosenow. “This action is not only unconstitutional on its face, but it is undemocratic because this specific partial veto allows school districts to raise property taxes for the next 400 years without voter approval.”

The WMC Litigation Center is representing Jeffery LeMieux and David DeValk in the lawsuit and filed an original action with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. As outlined in the petition, the lawsuit asks the Court to strike down the governor’s unconstitutional use of this type of veto.

“The law is clear,” added WMC Litigation Center Deputy Director Nathan Kane. “Voters and their elected legislators are the ones empowered to increases taxes, no one else.”

In addition to arguing the governor’s action violates the 1990 constitutional amendment outlawing this type of veto, the lawsuit also explains that appropriation bills must be approved by the governor in whole or in part. No veto can increase an appropriation amount or extend a duration as outlined by the Legislature.

“In no uncertain terms, 402 years is not less than or part of the two-year duration approved by the Legislature – it is far more,” concluded Rosenow. “The governor overstepped his authority with this partial veto, at the expense of taxpayers, and we believe oversight by the Court is necessary.”

The WMC Litigation Center filed this lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court to ensure the issue can be resolved in a timely manner.

Click here to read the petition.