Governor Evers’ budget address meets mixed responses

The governor highlights spending priorities for the next two years
Budget address Wisconsin 2023
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 4:17 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2023 at 10:08 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin’s governor spoke before the Republican-controlled state legislature to announce his biennial budget proposal -- this includes details on tax cuts, public school funding, and a number of policy issues.

Whatever budget the governor signs in the months to come is likely to be a lot different than the one he proposed Wednesday night.

The Republican-controlled legislature will strip this budget apart in crafting one of its own, setting the stage for lots of compromises. One of those initiatives Republicans want to see scrapped is likely a call to legalize marijuana.

Both parties seem ready to come to the bargaining table on some issues -- including tax cuts and shared revenue.

While Democrats cheered, Republicans sat mostly quiet as Governor Tony Evers gave a budget address highlighting his agenda for the next two years.

“While we must find ways to save when we can, we have a duty to invest in needs that have been long neglected,” Gov. Evers said.

This includes a major increase in shared revenue by giving local municipalities 20 percent of all sales tax collected, making good on a previous promise to do so. Republicans are also willing to negotiate on that but want to ensure it’s spent on funding law enforcement and first responders.

“I’m excited to share our budget that includes that proposal,” the governor said. “I don’t care where it came from, providing more than a half-billion dollars per year in resources to invest in key priorities like public safety. We have to get this done folks.”

Also in the budget: A plan to increase spending at every level of the state’s justice system. Evers: “We’re going to tackle this issue head-on in this budget. I’m investing nearly $36 million into bolstering our justice workforce, including assistant district attorneys and public defenders among other key positions.”

However, some Republicans are expressing concern about the cost and potential tax increases tied to this budget, including State Senator Andre Jacque (R - De Pere). “As we saw with the last couple of budgets, the governor proposed tax increases and things that would have exploded our gap deficit. The legislature has actually put fiscal stewardship on the right course where we put the state back in the black with our gap budget. So hopefully we will be able to do that again,” said Jacque.

Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D - Appleton) said, “I think we all agree on the ideas. It’s about how and how much to find it. So that’s where the conversations will happen. I think there’s a lot of commonality, as the governor referenced, and we are going to find something we all agree on.”

The Democratic governor has been calling for targeted income tax relief for middle and lower-income families. Any person making less than $100,000 and any married couple making less than $150,000 would qualify for a 10% reduction.

Republicans want a flat income tax rate but have indicated they are somewhat flexible on that.

Another big question: how to spend the state’s $7 billion budget surplus. The governor wants a big chunk of it to go to public education. Republicans say it’s a one-time bonus, not sustainable for long-term funding beyond this current budget.

The governor also surprised Republicans this week with a deal to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin until 2043 by proposing to spend almost $300 million on stadium renovations.

Jason Zimmerman reports live from the Capitol where Gov. Evers will lay out his budget proposals