State News

Gov. Evers exudes hope in State of the State Address

Evers promotes his plans as governor and highlights the value of bipartisanship, but Vos believes he is still too one-sided. 

Evers promotes his plans as governor and highlights the value of bipartisanship, but Vos believes he is still too one-sided. 

Image By: Photo Courtesy of KBJR6 News

On Tuesday evening, Gov. Tony Evers gave his first State of the State Address explaining his goals and emphasizing the importance of positive bipartisan spirit. Following this, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos shared the GOP response.

Evers began by honoring UW-Madison’s Marching Band Director Mike Leckrone, who will be retiring after 50 years of service to the state. 

After thanking his family, Evers began to address the room. 

“The state of our state is that we have work to do and we are ready for bipartisan solutions,” said Evers. “Tonight I ask you to make good on our promises by moving forward together.”

Evers spoke about the contradicting successes and challenges Wisconsin faces by being a state filled with technological innovation, while being simultaneously filled with segregation and disparities.

“We are a state forged by the Wisconsin idea, the notion that education informs our public policy and that knowledge should embrace communities,” Evers said. “But today we are also a state among the worst to raise a black family, and we are a state that is spending more on corrections than our entire University of Wisconsin System.”

A recent report by Wallethub found that Wisconsin is the most segregated state in the country, and Evers believes closing the racial achievement gap and lowering incarceration rates must be a priority. 

Evers took time in his speech to acknowledge individuals he believes embody his values by highlighting successes in various fields for underrepresented people. 

This included Wisconsinites like Lisa, the creator of a foundation for black women’s wellness to eliminate health disparities; Jenn, who has be able to control her health conditions through the Affordable Care Act; Jose, a child immigrant from Mexico who made Abbotsford his home; and Alex and Diamond, who are the first recipients of the Star Student program. 

The governor then began laying out the barebones of his upcoming budget plan. He talked about his intention to use the budget to “connect the dots,” which he said means "seeing the forest through the trees." 

More specifically he stated, “It is about … seeing the connection between how a lack of access to affordable health care and housing affects kids in the classroom. It’s about seeing the connection between drug and alcohol addiction and becoming in the burgeoning the criminal justice system. It’s about seeing the connection between a budding entrepreneur who wants their own business and how the rising cost of health insurance might push that dream out of reach.”

Evers announced his budget will guarantee two-thirds funding for schools across Wisconsin, asking for members on both sides of the legislature to agree with this move, as it is already supported by Majority Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. 

He also spoke about his intention to restore funding in schools to support students with special needs, low-income students and students of color. 

The governor admitted frankly that many proposals he drafted during his time as school superintendent never made it to the assembly floor. However, he confidently stated his plan to re-introduce many of these issues throughout his administration, like the Urban Initiative program.

Continuing to outline the plans for his budget, Evers moved to the subject of health care, promising to expand Medicaid in order to support 76,000 Wisconsinites.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the first assembly bill passed with a bipartisan majority of 76-19, which addressed health care plans regarding the 2.4 million Wisconsin patients with pre-existing conditions. Evers announced that he wants to retain this protection further by directing Attorney General Josh Kaul to withdraw from the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

Addressing one of his campaign platforms, environmental sustainability, the governor declared 2019 as the year of clean drinking water in Wisconsin and proposed a fiscally rewarding deal. 

“According to the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency, we have an estimated 176,000 lead service lines across our state; removing lead services lines could cost over 2 billion dollars, but Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that for every dollar we spend on replacing lead drinking water lines would see a 133 percent return on our investments,” explained Evers.

Following these statistics, Evers announced an upcoming executive order that would to designate a person in the Department of Health Services to secure federal funding for lead treatment programs. 

Throughout his speech, the Democratic party gave the governor a standing ovation for almost every point he made while the Republican party remained seated. However, when the governor stated he would cut taxes by 10 percent for those who make up to $100,000 dollars and for families making up to $150,000 dollars a year, the entire room rose in applause.  

However, this announcement was quickly followed by a resounding “but,” that caused the GOP to quickly return to their seats as Evers explained the method he would use to fulfill this tax cut. 

“But ... we are not going to do it by spending money we don’t have or by spending money that might not be there in two years,” Evers warned. “We are going to fund tax relief for hard-working families by capping a corporate tax, 80 percent of it, which goes to filers making more than $1 million.”

Before ending his speech, Evers told the audience he has never been more hopeful about Wisconsin.

“We will govern with a humble appreciation that the will of the people, our people, is the will of the law of the land,” Evers stated, alluding to an inscription on the ceiling of the governors’ conference room.

After the governor’s address, Vos gave a prepared response on behalf of the GOP. 

Vos spoke to the economic success of the state, bragging about this month marking the 11th month straight that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has been at or below 3 percent. 

He then promoted a middle class tax cut bill which would be funded by a $600 million GOP surplus. 

“We can make this middle class tax cut a reality, but [we] have to have a willing hand on the other side. The only bottom line that we have is that we are not going to raise somebody else’s taxes to lower another’s when there is plenty of money left to be able to do it on our own,” Vos explained. 

Finally, Vos addressed Republican concerns that Evers’ plans are focused on one side of the aisle, not where he believes the majority of Wisconsinites fall.

“If his budget is merely a tax and spend wish list, 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. 

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