Key Issues as 2023-24 Session Nears Conclusion: Budget Surplus, Redistricting, Abortion

As we approach the end of the 2023-24 legislative session in Wisconsin, several key political and policy issues are dominating conversations among the Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers (D).

Budget Surplus, Taxes, Child Care, and Workforce

Gov. Evers and Republican legislative leaders are still at odds over what to do with the remainder of the state’s record-breaking budget surplus. When the 2023-25 state budget cycle began, the state had a budget surplus of about $7.1 billion.

While the budget passed by the Legislature had a projected ending balance of $588 million, the final 2023-25 budget signed by Gov. Evers had a projected surplus of about $4 billion. Most of this difference is due to Gov. Evers’ partial veto of individual income tax reductions and related updates (totaling $3.3 billion in revenue). The Republican-authored budget would have cut the tax rate for the state’s upper two income tax brackets (the state’s second-highest bracket includes a majority of the individuals and married couples that file income tax in Wisconsin).

Gov. Evers later vetoed a workforce bill in which Republicans replaced his spending and policy proposals with a middle-class income tax cut, tax credits and deductions for child care and private school tuition, and several other workforce-related policies that also advanced as standalone bills (more on that here and here).

Now, the latest figures from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau show a reduction in estimated tax collections of about $422 million and a projected surplus of $3.15 billion at the end of the biennium.

Republican legislators have remained adamant about returning some of those surplus funds to taxpayers via income tax cuts and expanded income tax credits and subtractions. To that end, they have introduced four pieces of legislation:

  • AB 1020/SB 977: Raises the income limit for the state’s second income tax bracket, effectively lowering the tax rate for a broad range of “middle class” households and individuals.
  • AB 1021/SB 978: Increases and expands the state income tax subtraction for retirement income received from qualified retirement plans or from certain individual retirement accounts.
  • AB 1022/SB 979: Raises the maximum amount that can be claimed under the state income tax credit for joint married filers.
  • AB 1023/SB 976: Expands the state income tax credit for child and dependent care by raising the limit on employment-related expenses that can be claimed.

Meanwhile, in his State of the State address last week, Gov. Evers argued that the surplus funds should be used for “three things [that] are key to addressing our state’s workforce challenges: first, we must find a long-term solution to our state’s looming child care crisis; second, we must expand paid family leave; and third, we must invest in public education at every level, from early childhood to our technical colleges and universities.” Providing state funding to continue the pandemic-era Child Care Counts program has been one of the governor’s top priorities this session, an idea that has found little support among Republican legislators.


As we covered in detail here, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on December 22, 2023 that the state legislative maps adopted by the same court in April 2022 are unconstitutional. The justices of the court voted 4-3 along ideological lines to find that the current maps are unconstitutional and to order that new maps be put in place for the 2024 election. The Wisconsin Elections Commission has said that new maps need to be chosen by mid-March to give state officials and local clerks enough time to prepare for the August primary and November general elections.

The various parties to the case, including the Legislature, Gov. Evers, and the voters who filed suit against the current maps, have submitted their proposed new maps to the court. The court hired two redistricting consultants to assess those proposals, and their report is due to the court tomorrow (February 1).

Both houses of the Legislature were in session on January 23 for Gov. Evers’ State of the State address (coverage here). The Senate also briefly met on the floor to amend and pass AB 415, a redistricting policy bill that passed the Assembly last year (more on that here and here). The Senate adopted a substitute amendment removing all of the policy language in the bill and replacing it with language to adopt new legislative maps. The maps are nearly identical to what Gov. Evers submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, except that a few adjustments were made to “unpair” several groups of incumbent Republican legislators that were moved into the same district in Gov. Evers’ proposal.

The Assembly concurred in the Senate’s amendment the following day and immediately presented the bill to the governor. Gov. Evers announced January 30 that he had vetoed the bill, calling it an effort “to help make sure Republican-gerrymandered incumbents get to keep their seats. … that’s just more gerrymandering.”

News coverage is available here, here, and here.


Abortion remains a key political issue in Wisconsin heading into the 2024 election, even after a judge ruled in December that a state law from 1849 does not actually ban consensual medical abortions. After Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, providers stopped offering abortions in Wisconsin due to a lack of clarity about this law and whether abortion providers could be held criminally liable for providing those services.

Democrats have seen the issue as an effective way to motivate their base; Vice President Kamala Harris visited Wisconsin last week to discuss abortion and reproductive healthcare, the first in a series of such stops she has planned around the country. Meanwhile, in his State of the State address last week, Gov. Evers promised to “veto any bill that takes away your reproductive freedom or makes reproductive healthcare any less accessible in Wisconsin than it is today.”

Assembly Republicans passed a bill on January 25 that would reduce the state’s current limit on abortion after 20 weeks to 14 weeks, except in the case of a medical emergency or a pregnancy resulting from sexual assault or incest. The reduced limit would only take effect if the bill were to pass both houses, be signed by the governor, and then approved by a majority of voters in a statewide referendum. Gov. Evers will veto this bill if it passes the Senate. Related news coverage is available here.