Gov. Tony Evers defended his redistricting veto and touted healthcare and education investments ahead of the upcoming legislative session in remarks at a WisPolitics luncheon Tuesday.
Evers vetoed a Republican-approved redistricting proposal Tuesday after promising to reject the maps last week. Evers said the districts should be drawn to have more fair and competitive elections.
Republicans’ proposal would have tasked the Legislative Reference Bureau with drawing new maps. In his remarks, Evers questioned whether the LRB would draw fair maps.
“The thing that concerns me is the idea that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau or [Legislative] Reference Bureau is nonpartisan,” Evers said. “Why would anyone believe that when everything that’s been done by this Legislature is just the opposite?”
The LRB describes itself as a nonpartisan service agency that provides information and analysis to lawmakers. Per Wisconsin’s Blue Book, the LRB’s director is selected by Wisconsin’s Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, a committee currently controlled by Republicans that oversees LRB operations.
“His action today only solidifies his trust in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to give him even more partisan, gerrymandered maps for Democrats,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester said in a statement after Evers’ veto on Tuesday.
Instead, Evers said he would like to see a redistricting system similar to Iowa’s redistricting process, which bans the use of political data when redistricting.
Republicans' proposal, first introduced in September, was similar to the Iowa redistricting model.
Evers reflects on UW deal
Evers also discussed a December deal between the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and the Republican-controlled Legislature. The deal will restructure diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions in exchange for pay raises and building projects.
Evers lauded the additional support for public education systems but said the GOP has blocked some of his actions, such as pay raises in his budget for UW system employees.
In October 2022, Evers filed a lawsuit against Republican lawmakers for their use of “legislative vetoes” that have prevented state executive branch orders, such as UW employee pay raises and various conservation projects through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
Evers said UW System employees can expect to see a pay raise, which was “already a part of the budget.”
Evers renews call for Medicaid expansion
Evers also talked about cracks in Wisconsin's medical system Tuesday, particularly in the northern and western parts of the state.
“We need to make sure our health system is strong in rural Wisconsin,” Evers said, adding he would continue to increase access to broadband expansion, which would open up telehealth availability in rural areas.
Wisconsin’s healthcare system is expected to see a shortage of 20,000 nurses by 2040, according to the Wisconsin Examiner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many nurses left the healthcare system nationwide, a number expected to keep increasing.
Evers said expanding Medicaid — something Republican lawmakers have long opposed — would have prevented a distressed rural medicare system.
A large number of rural Wisconsinites depend on government aid due to financial losses during the pandemic, causing the shutdown of two hospitals and a number of clinics.
“If we have had Medicaid expansion, this mistake may not have happened,” Evers said.