This week, the transition of government is complete, with the Walker era coming to a close and Governor Evers’ teams landing in the Capitol and all across state agencies. Since the election, we have seen a number of clashes between the Republican legislature and then Governor-elect Evers regarding the powers of the governor and other key policy areas, such as healthcare and economic development. These policy debates are likely to heat up during this legislative session and state budget process. Evers campaigned on a number of items that the Republican legislature is likely to take issue with, such as plans to:
- Increase school funding by $1.4 billion over two years.
- Phase out four voucher systems unless the legislature significantly increases funding for public schools and adds accountability regulations for voucher schools.
- Increase funding for public transit.
- Take immediate action to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars.
- Restore “independence” to the DNR.
- Pledge Wisconsin’s support for the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
- Oppose Act 10 and Right-to-Work.
- Support repealing legislation that eliminates the opportunity for local communities to pass living wage and other worker protection policies.
- Support raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and indexing to inflation phased in over multiple years.
- Seek to create a “fairer” tax system.
- Propose starting universal background checks.
Many of these policy and funding discussions take place during the state budget process, but not like we have seen in the past eight years. During the past eight years of one-party control, the governor would introduce his budget and the Republican legislature would work from that to make changes and enhancements to advance their budget policy goals. This year, it is likely that Governor Evers will introduce his budget with little positive recognition from the legislature. Rather, the legislature is most likely to work off the previous Walker budget or their own baseline budget. While some negotiations between Evers and the legislature will play out, those negotiations will likely end in a stroke of the governor’s veto pen.