Lawmakers see divisions and room for agreement in State of the State
"The state of our state is that we've got work to do, and we're ready for bipartisan solutions," Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday night in front of Assembly and Senate members in Madison.
In his first State of the State address, Gov. Evers called for lawmakers to work together even as the Republican-controlled Legislature opposes many of his proposals.
"The realities we face are bigger than me or any political party. The magnitude of our challenges requires us to put people first because, as I've said, that is the promise of our service," Evers said. Click here to read the complete State of the State address.
Assembly Minority Leader Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is waiting to see how bipartisan the governor's budget proposal will be.
"If his budget is merely a tax-and-spend wishlist, one that would never pass our legislature, unfortunately his budget would amount to political gamesmanship, and the words of bipartisanship he said tonight would ring hollow," Vos said after the governor's speech.
In that speech, Gov. Evers announced he directed Attorney General Josh Kaul to pull Wisconsin out of a multi-state lawsuit seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The governor did not say why he still has the authority to issue such an order when Republican lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker passed a law last month saying that requires legislative approval.
Much of the theme at the state Capitol Tuesday focused on bipartisanship. Evers spoke for about 30 minutes, and during that time he did receive applause from both sides of the aisle. But on more controversial proposals Republicans were dead silent.
That divisiveness was evident the moment Governor Evers announced he directed the state attorney general to withdraw Wisconsin from a lawsuit seeking repeal of the federal health care law, despite Republicans last month passing a lame-duck law requiring legislative approval to do so.
"I'm really excited that the governor is asking attorney general to drop out of the case. We'll see what the legal limbo on that might be, but certainly it reflects what I think the public wants to see, and I'm glad to see him take the lead," Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) told us.
"I know some of his words here were conciliatory and about bipartisanship, but one of the first things out of the gate -- that he directed the attorney general to do -- was violate the law, and to withdraw from the ACA against state statutes. So that's concerning to us," Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said.
Attorney General Josh Kaul said he will "take action consistent with the law."
Other issues did draw more of a consensus, especially when it came to highway funding and more money for public schools.
"On those areas I think there's room for bipartisan support," Senate President Roger Roth (R-Appleton) said. "Another thing I will tell you we are going to make sure that we protect, we have a thriving economy right now and we're not going to do anything that is going to put people's jobs in jeopardy."
"He's going to push for public education funding, no doubt. He'd like to do a middle income tax cut. He said that long before Republicans threw that out there. We'd like to protect our environment. We've got some real issues in northern Wisconsin with the mine and partly in Michigan with it impacting the Menominee River and Tyco," Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said.
More specifics on how Evers will pay for his proposals will come out in his upcoming budget address. That will take place sometime prior to February 28.
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