A Different View from the Podium

Governor Nelson Dewey gave the 1st Wisconsin State of the State address on January 8, 1848. Since then, a total of 175 State of the State addresses were delivered by 45 different governors. Regardless who has served as Wisconsin’s governor, I’ve attended the State of the State address since I’ve been in the legislature. This year however, my vantage point switched from a seat on the Assembly floor to sitting on the podium behind the governor as he gave his speech.

My chair was symbolic of the pomp and circumstance of the event itself.  As a Joint Convention of the Legislature, the Assembly Chambers hosts not only both houses of the Legislature, but Justices from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Wisconsin Constitutional officers, the governor’s cabinet, and leaders from Wisconsin’s Tribal Nations.

As the historical and traditional opening formalities of a joint convention subsided and the governor began his speech, I soon realized many of his words remained in the grand ambiance of the event and not reality of his actions. 

For instance, the governor bragged about cutting taxes, and the Democrats wasted no time jumping to their feet and applauding. In reality, Governor Evers proposed over $1 billion in tax increases in 2021. The Republican Legislature scrapped those tax increases, and instead passed a budget with a $3.4 billion tax cut, the largest tax cut in state history. Not only has the governor taken credit for this tax cut, but as seen by the vote roll, all the Democrats cheering, with the exception of 3 voted against it.

Among many other topics, Governor Evers also talked about additional funding for public safety and addressing the fentanyl crisis in our state. This message was again met with enthusiastic Democrat applause. Unfortunately, the governor’s and Democrats’ actions do not match their words. Last session, the Legislature passed a bill that would have provided over $10 million in grants to local law enforcement for additional police officers and strategic planning. Every Democrat legislator voted against this bill, and it was also vetoed by the governor.

Wisconsin has seen many great successes this last year and is in a strong fiscal position, not because Governor Evers was in office, but because legislative Republicans did not rubber stamp his tax increasing budgets or answer his calls for gimmicky special sessions. There is still a lot of work to be done, and as the state budget process soon starts, I look forward to working toward reforms on shared revenue, K-12 funding, growing our workforce, and cutting taxes.  

If the governor is genuine in his words that he wants to work together to make Wisconsin a better state, then I look forward to working with him on finding common ground on these issues. I hope that in the coming months, his actions better reflect his words.