Gov. Evers’s 2019-21 Budget Address: Republicans React

Vos: Repeal of Right to Work and Repeal of Prevailing Wage Reforms “Never Going to Happen”

On Feb. 28, Gov. Tony Evers gave his biennial state budget address. While Democrats praised the reforms in the proposal, Republican legislators criticized the budget’s high price tag and inclusion of nonstarter items, but noted they hope to find a few areas of common ground.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) spoke with the MacIver Institute after Evers delivered his address. Vos criticized the “big taxes and big spending” in the proposal and expressed disappointment that Evers included nonstarter items for Republicans such as the repeal of right to work, Medicaid work requirements, and Medicaid expansion. Vos said repealing these and other reforms made under former Gov. Scott Walker is “never going to happen” under a Republican controlled legislature.

Although Vos criticized Evers’s proposal as not bipartisan and said Republicans would likely have to start their budget draft from scratch, they would try to find provisions of Evers’s budget that Republicans could support.

Vos said transportation could be one area for compromise since he wants to avoid more borrowing and find a way to increase revenues. While Vos said he would be open to Evers’s idea of an 8 cent gas tax increase with the repeal of minimum markup to offset it because Assembly Republicans offered a similar proposal last budget, he noted the repeal of prevailing wage reforms and right to work are nonstarters for his caucus.

Vos was confident the legislature will have budget done by the end of June deadline, noting that legislature will be at a good place to negotiate since Evers’s partial veto can only cut spending, and Wisconsin law does not allow for government shutdowns. Vos gave his word that the legislature will make this budget the “leanest budget possible” and not break any Republican “core principles.”

In a press release, Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said Wisconsin can’t afford Evers’s $8.3 billion budget. Like Vos, the co-chairs stated their willingness to work with the governor, but noted they would not repeal significant reforms made in the past several years under Walker.