Throughout the biennial budget process, my constituents have urged me to find ways to work together with Governor Evers regarding our state’s two year spending plan. I have listened to people all around the 38th Assembly District and have shared these comments with members of Joint Finance Committee and leadership as they crafted the budget.
In his first budget, the newly-elected governor had created a liberal wish list, increasing spending nearly $6 billion and raising taxes by more than $1 billion. Senate and Assembly Republicans worked together to find ways to continue to build on the gains made in the last eight years, ensuring our state remains on track with record low unemployment rate and lower taxes, while keeping in mind the challenges faced in area of transportation.
To that goal, the budget funded the state’s priorities without runaway government spending or massive tax increases. However, Governor Evers chose to allocate funding mostly to Milwaukee and Madison, abandoning care of the rest of the state. This is why I am sharing my disappointment in his actions want to remind individuals of the gains that survived Governor Evers’ veto pen.
The Wisconsin budget, as passed by the legislature and ultimately signed by the governor, was able to hold the line on tax increases and new spending as proposed by the governor. At the same time, it increases the largest actual dollar amount to public education so schools have every opportunity to achieve student proficiency. Other conservative gains remained untouched including voter ID, the UW tuition freeze, increased funding for our nursing homes and personal care workers, doubled the rainy day fund, and maintained funding for our state highways and roads among others.
However, 78 changes were made by Governor Evers that will ultimately undermine the progress of our state and promote division. The governor’s vetoes strip the funding of work and job-training requirements for parents with school-aged children. This comes at a time when our state has had 16 months straight of 3% or below unemployment. He also robbed local communities of nearly $15 million in road aid while at the same time dedicating $75 million for a DOT transit fund for Madison and Milwaukee, used at his discretion. The governor also eliminated a requirement for Milwaukee to pay their fair share into the child welfare system, forcing the rest of the state to pay $14 million for the city. Governor Evers slashed provisions for suicide prevention, mental illness, and substance abuse via telehealth. This is of particular concern for the 38th Assembly District as we lead the way on some of the state’s strongest organizations on the front lines.
Especially given the compromises with the governor in drafting the state budget, I am saddened to see Governor Evers cave to politics as usual, surrounding himself with Democrat legislators that did not even vote for the compromise but cheered at the contentious final product. It is important to remember that having the governor’s seat does not make one a dictator. Split government means that compromise requires both sides to give a little bit. Sadly, the only attempts to work together came on the part of the Legislature. However, I remain hopeful that the Assembly Republican caucus will continue to discuss ways we can keep our state on track despite the partisan politics and misplaced priorities.