MADISON (WKOW) — Governor Tony Evers delivered his first State of the State address Tuesday evening focusing on a handful of campaign pledges including boosting school funding, fixing transportation, and expanding health care.
Republicans and Democrats now split control of the legislature and governor’s office for the first time in eight years.
Evers pitched to return to two-thirds funding for schools and urged legislation to address the state’s achievement gap for low-income students.
“Unfortunately, most of these proposals never made it through the Legislative process,” said Evers. “I believe this is the year they will.”
Evers reiterated many of his ideas proposed to the legislature when he was State Superintendent of Schools such as investing a $600 million increase in special education funding.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called it a “stretch.” Republican Senator Alberta Darling and others in her caucus do support restoring two-thirds funding but want to find what she calls appropriate ways to pay for it.
“He has a lot of good ideas that we’d like to do,” said Sen. Darling. “The issue is how are we going to pay for it?”
The governor announced he will keep his word to drop out of a multi-state lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He sent a letter to Attorney General Josh Kaul urging him to withdraw from the litigation citing Wis. State 165.25. Statute.
Evers made the comments without explaining how his order would be legal. Speaker Vos called it “illegal” without legislative approval after Republicans passed a law during the lame-duck preventing the Attorney General from withdrawing.
Evers also stressed he’ll seek to expand Medicaid in his budget, citing the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau who projects it could provide health care coverage for an additional 76,000 Wisconsinites.
Fitzgerald said if Evers should “give up” on plans to include it in his budget.
“All we’re going to do is end up in a situation where it’s going to be logger-heads and will have to continue to negotiation, but he can’t balance his budget on the Medicaid number, it’s not going to work,” said Fitzgerald.
Evers said soon he will launch a task force with stakeholders and feedback from voters to form a bipartisan solution to funding transportation and infrastructure.
“I know that caucus members in both houses support different approaches to solving our transportation funding crisis, it’s going to take sacrifices and compromises to find a long-term, comprehensive solution that works for everyone,” said Evers.
Both Republicans and Evers have their own plans to cut taxes for the middle class. Last week, Speaker Vos and his caucus said they support a tax cut but prefer to use the budget surplus to pay for it.
In his speech, Evers said he will include a 10% tax cut by capping a corporate tax credit for manufacturers and agriculture industries.
“We’re not going to do it by spending money we don’t have or that might not be there in two years,” said Evers.
Republicans said they don’t support raising taxes and called Evers approach “harmful” to hard-working families.
“I’ve tried to be optimistic to say we can certainly work off his budget if he doesn’t build it on a house of sand knowing all this money won’t be there that he wants to spend,” said Vos.