MADISON (WKOW) — Gov.-elect Tony Evers said he’s ready to move on from a busy December after Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation to limit some executive powers from Evers. As he begins to enter divided government, Evers said it’s in his DNA to start solving problems.
“Do I think toxicity is a bad thing? Well yeah – but we’re all adults and we need adults in a room to move forward and make sure the people’s will is taken into consideration,” he said during a sit-down interview.
The environment heading into a new legislative session, set to begin on Jan. 7, has been a concern for Democrats after Republicans took control over a lame duck session fast-tracking bills within a few days. Democrats were left out of several discussions over legislation that limits rule-making authority over the incoming governor and attorney general.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said there’s no trust on either side and expects gridlock or compromise going forward.
With a new year, Evers said he’s ready for a fresh start. The soon-to-be Democratic governor is not a fan of New Year resolutions but said it’s time to make some drastic changes to education, transportation and health care.
THE BUDGET, TAXES:
Evers is expecting the budget to be delivered and passed on time after a few Democrats feared a budget stalemate was looming.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said she believes it could be so severe that Evers and Republicans will never agree on a budget.
“If you go in with the expectation there will be a stalemate, you may as well go home,” said Evers. “The people of Wisconsin are frankly sick of polarization and I’m going to do everything I can to help people understand polarization doesn’t work that way.”
Evers did not provide specifics on dollar amounts about crafting a budget, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald predicted the Legislature will write their own and push aside what Evers submits. Evers has had one-on-one meetings with Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
“They want to set their parameters of where they’re going to live and die. I suppose in politics that’s counterproductive,” Evers said. “We’re going to continue to reach out to people.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Evers said he’s not ruling out vetoing the entire state budget if Republicans completely ignore his proposal and decide to write their two-year spending plan.
Evers said he rather work together with Republican leaders. Senator Fitzgerald said he’s “deeply concerned” over Evers plans to use money from a corporate tax break program to lower taxes on the middle class by 10%.
“While it’s encouraging that Governor-elect Evers has decided not to do away with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, I’m deeply concerned over his plans to hike taxes on Wisconsin’s small business owners and farmers before he’s even sworn into office,” wrote Fitzgerald in a statement. “With Republican leadership in the Legislature, our state’s tax burden is at a 50-year low – we will continue in our commitment to keeping taxes low for hard-working families and making sure that Wisconsin stays open for business.”
So far, Evers has nominated 11 cabinet secretaries to join his administration. The State Senate will have to confirm his picks.
His transportation secretary Craig Thompson received the most backlash from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
In a statement, Fitzgerald said he heard “serious concerns” over his appointment due to his background being an advocate for special interests.
Evers said he’s confident Thompson will be confirmed by the Senate regardless of Fitzgerald’s doubts.
“I think he’s an outstanding candidate and I feel he will be approved by the Senate at the end of the day,” he said. “He is someone that is bipartisan.”
Thompson is an advocate for increasing the gas tax and altering the fee’s for license plate registration to help pay for roads and infrastructure. When asked if Evers supports raising the gas tax he said he’s on board with their decision.
“I’ll support with whatever the committee comes up with,” he said.
Republicans have raised the alarm about the rest of his cabinet picks all coming from the Madison-Milwaukee area. Evers said he’ll soon announce the remaining six to his administration which will tone down those concerns.
A major part of Evers campaign was to guarantee protections for pre-existing conditions. Earlier this month a federal judge declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, but issued an order to allow the law to remain in effect pending an appeal.
Evers said those protections should be guaranteed and passed by Congress.
“State law doesn’t allow us to impose on self-funded plans…if it disappears overnight will introduce something in the legislature to take care as many people as possible,” he said.
During the lame-duck session the Senate failed to pass a bill to protect pre-existing conditions, the Assembly already passed it months earlier.
It’s likely a measure to be taken up by lawmakers sooner rather than later once session begins.
WISCONSIN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (WEDC)
A new law makes it difficult for Evers to eliminate WEDC, an idea he introduced on the campaign trail. It’s an agency Walker created in 2011. Getting rid of it would involve changing statues and Republicans fought to make sure it stays in place.
Evers doesn’t have control over the agency’s board and won’t be able to appoint a new CEO for at least nine months. He said despite the law, he will make decisions regarding the corporation.
“We will continue to be involved in economic development in the state,” he said. “I believe the governor is the chief economic developer in the state… and I’ll actively be involved regardless of this law.”