Rep Taylor: Republicans are stuck in the last eight years while Gov. Evers is moving us forward

Throughout the budget process, my Republican colleagues on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) repeatedly touted how eight years of Republican rule had “turned the state around.” Yet the facts reveals a starkly different picture. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 Wisconsin was 39th in the nation in private sector job creation, compared with 11th in the nation in 2010. Over the last ten years, our wage growth has lagged the national average. And recent studies show that we are losing highly educated workers while failing to attract families with children at past rates. To top it all off is eight years of Republicans prioritizing tax giveaways to millionaires over investments in our communities, our transportation system, and our public schools.

It is against this backdrop that the people elected Governor Tony Evers. And as soon as he was elected, Governor Evers held listening sessions around the state to create the “People’s budget,” a budget that reflects the priorities of the actual people of our state. The first priority is to follow 37 other states including Washington DC in expanding Medicaid. This would bring $1.6 billion of our federal tax dollars back to our state, while saving $324.5 million in state dollars and providing 82,000 low-income people with affordable health care.

The People’s Budget also makes historic investments in public education. For K-12 schools, this means finally increasing special education reimbursement rates and providing mental health supports our students desperately need. For the UW System, this means funding the tuition freeze and making investments not just in the buildings where our students learn, but what happens inside those buildings. Finally, the People’s Budget fixes our transportation crisis with a modest gas tax increase, so those that use our roads, including those from Illinois and Minnesota, pay for the cost of maintaining them.

Governor Evers accomplishes all of this while cutting income taxes for low- and middle-income people and lowering property taxes when compared to current law.

For the first time in my tenure, my Republican colleagues have been forced by Governor Evers and his popular budget to confront the actual priorities of the people. In a few areas, Republican legislators provide more funding than they would have ever considered absent Governor Evers’ election, such as in the Capitol Budget, which funds maintenance and enhancement projects for UW and other state buildings.

But for the most part, they continued on their wayward path, choosing politics over people. They could have funded Gov. Evers’ $1.4 billion investment in our K-12 public schools. Instead, they cut Governor Evers’ K-12 funding proposal by $900 million, choosing instead to protect $1.1 billion in tax giveaways for the wealthiest elite in our state. The UW System fared even worse. For the 5th straight budget, Republicans failed to fund a tuition freeze, and the new funding they provided does not even cover the cost of inflation. And they refused once more to propose a sustainable fix to our transportation crisis while underfunding public transit.

And most significantly, despite strong public support and the massive state savings and influx of federal dollars, Republican legislators have refused to expand Medicaid. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos even went so far as to proclaim that he would rather die than provide health care that would actually save the life of a currently uninsured person.  

The state of our state should have caused Republican legislators to change course. Instead, for the most part, they have doubled down on bad decision after bad decision. When legislators pick their voters, rather than the other way around, that is what the people get. Ironically, a provision to create a nonpartisan redistricting process was one of the first things Republicans removed from the People’s budget.