With Wisconsin’s 2023-2024 legislative session concluded, RENEW Wisconsin is now focused on educating candidates and voters, preparing for the August and November elections, and planning for the next legislative session. We are paying close attention to a referendum question on the August ballot that will decide how federal funds that come to the state will be allocated.

Amendments to the Wisconsin Constitution occur infrequently. The process of seeking a constitutional amendment involves identical question language, passing two legislative sessions consecutively, and then being approved by the voters through a statewide referendum or through court action. To undo an amendment also involves two consecutive legislative votes and a referendum by the voters or court action.

The referendum questions before the voters to be presented at the August partisan primary ballot are based on Assembly Joint Resolution 6, a proposal that was passed by Wisconsin’s legislature in March of this year. The exact wording is:

Delegation of appropriation power. Shall section 35 (1) of article IV of the constitution be created to provide that the legislature may not delegate its sole power to determine how moneys shall be appropriated?”


Allocation of federal moneys. Shall section 35 (2) of article IV of the constitution be created to prohibit the governor from allocating any federal moneys the governor accepts on behalf of the state without the approval of the legislature by joint resolution or as provided by legislative rule?”

In plain terms, the changes would limit the Governor’s authority and instead require that the state legislature decide how and when to disperse federal funds.

Under current law, the Governor of the state has the authority to accept federal funding on behalf of the state and allocate the funds without specific approval or involvement from the state legislature. States have benefited from federal assistance during extensive emergencies, extreme weather conditions, natural disasters, and other situations where immediate financial assistance was critical. In more recent years, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated money to the states to implement Wisconsin’s transition to clean energy.

It will be up to Wisconsin voters to decide whether this proposal becomes law. Approving this Amendment and tasking the state legislature with allocating federal funding would require consensus among 132 legislators in order to connect Wisconsin residents and communities to federal money. If the amendment does not pass, the Governor, as the head of state, can continue to accept and disperse federal money.