Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers said in a Wednesday interview with The Associated Press that he isn’t ruling out vetoing the entire state budget if Republicans completely ignore his proposal and decide to write their own two-year spending plan.
Evers reiterated that he wants to work with Republicans who control the Legislature. But when asked if he would veto a GOP-written budget that disregards his plan, Evers said “anything’s possible.”
“We have to find some common ground,” Evers said. “People in Wisconsin during the campaign made it clear that they were sick of partisanship. They want people to actually accomplish things instead of fight. And I’m not sure that that is consistent with the Republicans’ plan to have their own budget.”
Evers replaces Gov. Scott Walker on Monday. Evers is required to submit a two-year state budget early this year that is sure to include many provisions Republicans oppose, including expanding Medicaid, using money from a corporate tax break program to lower middle-class income taxes by 10 percent and increasing funding for public education by $1.4 billion.
Evers is also considering raising the gas tax and other fees to pay for transportation needs, something that hit a road block in the Senate last session, though Assembly Republicans were open to the idea then.
Evers told the Wisconsin State Journal that his budget would include a “clear pathway” to increasing the state’s $7.25 minimum wage, but wouldn’t say by how much. Evers told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he will propose allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to qualify for driver’s cards; give immigrants who came to the state illegally as children the chance to pay in-state tuition; allow property taxes to rise by more than they have in the past; and perhaps let local governments increase sales taxes.
All of those proposals are likely to face Republican opposition.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he’s “deeply concerned” with what he called Evers’ plans to “hike” taxes on small-business owners and farmers. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
The Legislature generally spends months dissecting a governor’s budget plan, but Republicans could start from scratch and ignore Evers’ proposal. The new budget year begins in July, but state government won’t shut down if that deadline is missed.
Evers can partially veto spending items in the budget. That means he could sign into law some parts of the budget and reject others.
Evers said Wednesday that he also wouldn’t be shy about vetoing non-budget bills.
The near certainty of vetoes will be a stark contrast from Walker’s eight years in office, where he worked closely with the Republican Legislature to develop budgets and other legislation. Walker vetoed only one bill outright during his first term. Walker’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, vetoed 101 bills in his first term from 2003 to 2007, when Republicans controlled the Legislature.
Any Evers veto is likely to stick. The Wisconsin Legislature has not overridden a governor’s veto since 1985. And while Republicans will maintain their majorities in the Senate and Assembly, they will not have enough votes to override vetoes without Democratic support.
Evers also told the AP that he will also proceed with plans to cut the adult prison population in half, but specifics were still being worked out.
“I don’t think it’s going to be solved in this first budget,” he said, adding that he remains opposed to paying for opening a new prison to ease overcrowding.
In another break with Walker, Evers said he would be open to pardoning people if they have been rehabilitated and demonstrate they deserve it. Walker never pardoned anyone during his eight-year tenure.
Evers told The Journal Sentinel that he would not go along with parts of the laws enacted during a lame-duck legislative session last month that limited his powers but wouldn’t specify which ones. The new laws limit his power over enacting state rules, prohibit him from appointing a leader of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. until September and require legislative approval before seeking federal waivers affecting benefit programs.
Evers said he expected to be named as a defendant in lawsuits rather than bring litigation himself. One lawsuit challenging limits on early voting approved during the lame-duck session has already been filed, but no one has challenged other provisions.
Evers told WISC-TV that he’s open to criminalizing first-offense drunken driving, something he also said during the campaign. Wisconsin is the only state where a first offense is a traffic infraction and not a crime.
“We have to find ways to make that first offense more meaningful to the offenders so they don’t offend again or don’t offend the first time,” Evers said. “Whether that’s making it a felony or not, I’m not sure.”
The April election will bring at least one new face to the Milton School Board.
Two school board seats are up for grabs. One currently belongs to Don Vruwink, who announced last month he will not seek another term.
The other seat is held by Mike Pierce, who is running for re-election.
Rick Mullen, Harvey Smith, Rick Ehle and Pierce will be on the ballot after filing candidacy paperwork by Wednesday night’s deadline.
Vruwink, a former Milton High School teacher, told The Gazette he will not run because he wants to focus on his job as the 43rd Assembly District representative.
Pierce was appointed to a one-year term to replace Betsy Lubke, who resigned in April. He previously served on the school board from 1994 to 2012.
Pierce said he chose to run again because the school board is in the midst of approving a $59.9 million capital referendum for the spring ballot, and he does not want to appear not to support of the referendum.
“I do support it and want to see it through,” he said.
Smith ran unsuccessfully for school board in 2017, receiving the fifth-most votes of six candidates.
He said residents encouraged him to run again, and he believes this is his time to give back to the community now that he is retired.
The board took a better approach to craft the latest proposed referendum, Smith said. He said he voted “no” on the last two referendums but is optimistic about the new facilities solution.
Ehle also is making his second attempt at a school board seat. He first ran in 2016.
Ehle said he is unsure of his stance on the referendum because he thinks the district has not provided enough information.
Plunkett Raysich Architects has presented multiple conceptual designs at school board and strategic planning committee meetings, but Ehle said that is not enough. He wants to see detailed drawings that include the number of classrooms, amount of classroom space and cost per square foot.
Ehle also thinks officials should consider operational costs associated with the construction.
Mullen is running for school board for the first time. He is a Milton High School graduate, pharmacist at Mercyhealth and father to two high school students.
“I care about the kids in our community,” Mullen said. “I think I am the kind of person who can watch out for kids, taxpayers, teachers and everyone involved.”
Mullen said he supported the first two referendums and thinks building a new high school would have been the best solution to the district’s facility needs.
The proposed spring referendum is a good compromise that still meets many needs, Mullen said.
Beyond the referendum, candidates had few concerns about the district and school board.
Pierce said he wants to see better communication between administrators and board members.
Smith said he wants the board to have a more active role in creating its agendas and holding discussions at meetings. The board currently takes too much direction from Superintendent Tim Schigur, he said.
Mullen said he is impressed by Milton’s low tax rate and wants to help the board keep taxes low while still investing in education.
Ehle is concerned about school safety. He said the district is doing a “better job” of addressing safety but still has work to do to protect students and prevent bullying.
The Milton City Council will decide today whether to hold a spring primary in the mayoral race.
Three candidates are vying to be Milton’s next mayor: Mayor Anissa Welch, who is running for re-election, Loren Lippincott and Daniel Loofboro.
The city could hold a primary in the mayoral race because the number of candidates is more than double the number of open seats. If the council chooses to hold a primary, it will be Feb. 19.
Welch was elected mayor in 2015. She had served on the city council since 2011.
The Gazette was unable to reach Welch for comment by deadline.
Lippincott is the former chief of the Milton Fire Department. He retired in 2016 after a 40-year career in fire service.
Lippincott said this is his first run for public office. He said a key issue is making sure storefronts are filled with businesses, which is a problem now, he said.
He said Milton needs to examine the ongoing sharing of fire services with Janesville to see if it’s working well for all, and the city needs to discuss the future with surrounding towns.
It’s time to consider “not just what we can do to survive but what we can do to move forward in the future,” Lippincott said.
The spring election will be Loofboro’s first time running for public office in Milton. He said he grew up in the town of Milton and has lived in the city for two years.
Loofboro said he has noticed increases in his taxes in recent years and wants to “fix it.”
He also wants the Milton fire station to stay in the city and not move to another location between Janesville and Milton, as has been discussed.
Loofboro also believes that, if elected, he can help the Milton School District pass its referendum.
When asked how the mayor can help pass a school district referendum, Loofboro said, “Being a hometown guy like me would get that passed.”
The mayor does not have any voting power or authority over the school board.
Two candidates are running for three council seats. Incumbents Larry Laehn and Theresa Rusch are seeking re-election, but incumbent Jeremy Zajac is not.
Laehn hopes to continue paying off long-term debt as the city has done in recent years. Finding solutions to help the fire department and attracting growth in the city are his other two priorities.
Rusch also listed the fire department and growth as priorities, as well as working with the state to improve transportation resources.
Christina R. Bollig
Gerald “Jerry” Janquart
Cecelia Mary “Cee” Licari-Georgalas
Michael S. Ostrander
Betty Lou Sass
Donald Roy Thurnau
Judith A. Ullius
Clarisa Deliah Qualls Vollmar
Pauline E. Wiedmer
Gladys M. Wileman
Four incumbents and one newcomer will seek four seats on the Janesville City Council in the April 2 election.
Incumbents Sue Conley, Jim Farrell, Doug Marklein and Tom Wolfe all said they enjoyed serving on the council and wanted to continue momentum in Janesville.
The Gazette was unable to reach newcomer Jan Chesmore for comment.
Another newcomer, Richard Reinke, had earlier declared his candidacy, but he did not return the necessary paperwork by Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek said.
Conley and Wolfe are finishing their first terms, having first been elected in spring 2017. Conley said “there’s no reason not to” run again because she considered the work rewarding.
She didn’t have anything negative to say about the city’s direction. The ARISE downtown revitalization plan was moving ahead strongly. Conley hoped its momentum could extend to downtown’s west end, where vacant storefronts are more prevalent, she said.
The city’s business improvement district will be a powerful tool to recruit and retain businesses in the beleaguered areas of downtown, she said.
Conley said she is particularly interested in finding solutions for Janesville’s housing shortage that encompasses both affordable and high-end units.
Wolfe said two years on the council wasn’t long enough because it took him a while to navigate the learning curve. Now that he’s beyond that, he can use his knowledge of issues and proposals to be a more effective council member.
Some of those ongoing projects include SHINE, the Corner Block on Parker market-rate apartments and an affordable housing apartment proposal downtown, he said.
Wolfe pushed back against criticism that the council rarely turns projects down. That’s because city staff does a good job vetting proposals and not bringing any “pie-in-the-sky stuff” to the council, he said.
Farrell and Marklein have been on the council for six years.
Farrell said the city is moving in a positive direction. His 40-year career as a manufacturing accountant gave him financial expertise that makes him an asset to council, he said.
He still has a handful of priorities he wanted to tackle in another term: more environmental protections, limiting or eliminating cruising on Milton Avenue and recruiting businesses to fill vacancies in “mature areas” of Janesville, he said.
Those areas include parts of Milton Avenue such as the Creston Park Mall. He also wanted to streamline the city’s permitting process for new businesses because some business owners have told him the procedure is “unwieldy.”
Marklein said he planned to enter his next term “with no agenda at all,” preferring to let residents and city staff dictate council priorities.
Janesville has a good city manager in Mark Freitag who has helped improve road maintenance and resurrect parts of downtown. The council is doing a good job of meeting goals in its five-year plan, Marklein said.
Wolfe and Farrell lauded their fellow incumbents and their fitness for public office.
“We have a very good group of people on this council, and our citizens should be aware of it,” Farrell said. “A good group of people who ask questions and are dedicated to this role.”