Gov. Evers budget controversial even before its release

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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY/AP) - Thursday night, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will address the state Legislature, where he'll release his first state budget proposal.

The $76 billion spending plan is expected to contain a number of controversial plans which Republicans controlling the Legislature have already voiced opposition to.

Democrats are very excited about the speech, as the governor already dropped a number of hints about what he'll announce at the Capitol.

"We're excited about what we can do with education, an investment that will be proposed there, but definitely excited to hear about water and what we are going to be doing to address the water crisis we have here in Wisconsin," state Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton) said.

Evers' budget is also expected to call for $1.4 billion more for public school funding, a freeze on taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.

However, specifics on funding various proposals remained a mystery ahead of the budget plan's release.

This is especially true on the issue of transportation. The governor campaigned heavily on fixing roads. That issue stalled the last state budget, even when the Republicans were in complete control of the Legislature and executive branch.

Other budget issues are policy-driven, such as the governor's plan to decriminalize smoking and selling small amounts of marijuana and the governor's request to establish a non-partisan commission to draw voting district lines after the 2020 census to do away with party-controlled gerrymandering.

"What we will be doing as the first action, Joint Finance will strip all of the non-fiscal policy out of the budget, and then we will be left with just what we should be, which is on appropriating the budget in funding for our state," Senate President Roger Roth (R-Appleton) said.

In fact, Republicans could rewrite much of the budget since they control both the Assembly and Senate.

Any changes, though, could also be vetoed by the governor.

That's likely to set the stage for some compromises.

"I think it's a non-starter to me and many of my colleagues about raising taxes. Our economy is very strong, and we don't want to do anything to put that in jeopardy. We also don't want to expand welfare here in the state," Sen. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) said.

"These budgets are really statements of priorities," Rep. Stuck said, "and there is no shortage of issues that need to be addressed in Wisconsin. There has been a lot of things that have been lacking in investment the last few years, and now it's time to get back to looking at those priorities."

Jason Zimmerman is in Madison and will have lawmakers' reactions to the budget address on Action 2 News at Ten.

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12:10 p.m.

Gov. Tony Evers' executive budget will allow people in the country illegally to obtain driver's licenses and identification cards.

Evers is due to release the budget with a speech at the state Capitol on Thursday evening. His office released excerpts of the speech to reporters Thursday morning.

The excerpts include two paragraphs in which Evers introduces someone named Tony from Wausau. The governor says Tony attended one of his budget listening sessions and talked about how people in the country illegally need driver's licenses, especially in communities with little public transportation. The excerpts don't include Tony's last name or any other information about him.

Evers goes on to say that the budget will make people in the country illegally eligible for driver's license and ID cards. He says the move will make Wisconsin roads and communities safer and strengthen the state's economy and families.

Evers campaigned on making driver's licenses and ID cards available to people living in the country illegally.

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11:15 p.m.

Gov. Tony Evers is releasing his first state budget to a skeptical Republican Legislature, with many of his proposals likely dead on arrival and others unlikely to pass without significant changes.

Evers, a Democrat, unveils his plan Thursday night during a joint meeting of the Legislature. That will kick off a monthslong process of lobbying, cajoling, bartering and begging over the roughly $76 billion spending plan that affects nearly every person in Wisconsin.

It will determine how much money goes to schools and prisons, the University of Wisconsin System and technical colleges, public assistance programs and corporate tax breaks.

The budget will also determine whether it will cost more to fill up at the gas station, go hunting or pitch a tent at a state park.

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