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Data: Lobbyists spent nearly $18M in Wisconsin budget season

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Lobbyists spent nearly $18 million to influence the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature and state agencies during the first budget season under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, according to early figures.

The nonpartisan state Ethics Commission’s preliminary records reveal overall spending from more than 700 possible lobbying groups has fallen by more than $1 million so far this year, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The newspaper examined the total lobbying effort in the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period two years ago. Although hundreds of groups reported to the Ethics Commission, many logged little to no lobbying activity.

The numbers also indicate that six of the top 10 lobbyist groups in 2019 were among the highest spenders during the state’s last budget battle two years ago. The top spenders include the Wisconsin Hospital Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Evers added 78 line vetoes before signing the two-year budget July 3 .

The statistics account for the salary and benefits of lobbyists and other employees for their time spent directly communicating with legislators or other Wisconsin officials in addition to time spent preparing for such communication. They also account for money expended on research, advocacy linked to legislation they’re seeking to influence and overhead, such as rent or supplies, connected to their lobbying efforts.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association, which represents many of the state’s hospitals and health systems, spent the most — $430,138 on 2,197 hours, or 92 full days — in attempts to influence state officials. The hospital associations spending came after Evers and Democrats in the Legislature proposed accepting federal dollars to expand Wisconsin’s Medicaid program coverage to include roughly 82,000 more adults who earn up to 133% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, the poverty level is a yearly income of $25,750. Legislative Republicans disagreed with the suggested idea and ultimately removed it from consideration.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the powerful conservative business lobby, spent $414,184 to influence legislation so far in 2019. The lobby group’s spokesman, Scott Manley, said that most of the organization’s time has been spent on challenging Evers’ proposals, which include his call to scale back the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit to help pay for a middle class tax cut. The GOP Legislature subsequently rejected the proposed plan.

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