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Evers uses veto powers to cut funds for Milwaukee tourism bureau for RNC

Convention expected to bring 50K visitors to the state's largest city

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Buildings in Milwaukee
Jim Bauer (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Gov. Tony Evers used his veto powers Wednesday to cut funding state lawmakers intended to give to Milwaukee’s visitor bureau for programing related to the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Lawmakers on the Republican-controlled finance committee had planned to funnel $10 million to Visit Milwaukee to be used in 2023 and 2024 for the convention. But Evers partially vetoed that funding in the Republican-drafted state budget, instead allocating $1 million for the bureau and removing the requirement that says they must use the money in 2023 and 2024.

“I am partially vetoing this provision because I object to the Legislature providing this level of funding to Visit Milwaukee when they have failed to adequately fund so many important priorities for our state, from child care to higher education,” Evers wrote about his decision.

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The Milwaukee 2024 Host Committee has been tasked with raising money to hold the convention, which is expected to draw 50,000 people to the city in July 2024. The Republican National Committee will also hold its first presidential primary debate in Milwaukee next month.

A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment on the partial veto. It’s not clear yet how much has been raised for the event.

“VISIT Milwaukee is grateful to Governor Evers and the state legislature for their support of tourism in Milwaukee and the incredible impact it has on the community this year and beyond,” Peggy Williams-Smith, CEO of Visit Milwaukee, said in a statement.

Evers earmarked the remaining $9 million for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to use for “general marketing purposes.”

“This will provide greater flexibility to the department to use its expertise to maximize available funding to increase tourism,” Evers wrote. “By engaging individuals with Wisconsin’s many entertainment and recreational options throughout the state, we will raise Wisconsin’s profile across the country as a premier business, cultural, and recreational destination.”

The convention is expected to have a $200 million economic impact, according to some estimates. Hotels from Janesville to Sheboygan to Madison will likely be used for the event.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson declined to comment on the partial veto, but a spokesperson for the mayor said he’s optimistic the city would soon receive an additional $25 million in federal funding for security for the convention.

Milwaukee was also selected to host the Democratic National Convention in 2020, but the city received no state funding before the event was transitioned to a remote one after the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to shut down any in-person events

A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did not respond to a reporter’s request for an interview about the partial veto.

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