Gov. Tony Evers cast doubt on a call from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald for a new round of tax cuts, saying it was a politically motivated suggestion as the Juneau Republican launches his campaign for the 5th CD.
Fitzgerald said on “UpFront” he’d like to pass another tax cut if January revenue estimates come in higher than previously expected.
Speaking at a WisPolitics.com luncheon Tuesday, Evers said he’d consider such a proposal if it crossed his desk. But he said some things “give me pause” and he’d prefer to put aside any additional revenue in case the economy takes a downturn.
“A one-time increase in revenue cannot in perpetuity fund a tax cut. That’s not the way money works,” Evers said.
The guv added, “It’s questionable rhetoric. I guess it has something to do with election prospects for him.”
A Fitzgerald spokesman rejected the charge. He said the majority leader has been raising the prospects of a new tax cut since last month, before U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, announced he wouldn’t seek reelection.
“As leader, Scott Fitzgerald has always prioritized cutting taxes and has overseen billions of dollars in tax cuts,” said spokesman Alec Zimmerman. “It should be no surprise that he’s interested in the possibility of further tax cuts following revenue estimates early next year.”
During the luncheon, Evers laid out a fall agenda that includes new gun control measures, medical marijuana and expanding Medicaid.
But GOP leaders have already raised varying levels of opposition to the proposals.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said he was open to medical marijuana, and a bill with bipartisan support was introduced last week. But Fitzgerald has said he opposes the bill.
Republicans also pulled from the budget Evers’ call to expand Medicaid using federal money, and GOP leaders have shown no interest in a standalone bill that would take the step.
Asked by an audience member whether the bill would be any different than his approach in the budget, Evers vowed there would be “repercussions” for Republicans who continue to oppose it at the ballot box.
Evers acknowledged that Fitzgerald and Vos are unlikely to come around on the bill on their own, regardless of whether it is structured differently from what was in the budget. But he said he will continue making the case to the public.
“So we’re going to continue doing it until they start losing members and then they’ll change their minds,” Evers said.
Evers also said he would consider a bill that would raise to 21 the age to buy tobacco. But he said he’s worried “vaping will be given a pass” with the bill.
Rather than reducing smoking, he said research shows vapers become smokers “more often than not.”
And he signaled he was open to a bill that would allow Milwaukee city and county to impose a 1 percent local sales tax that would be used for property tax relief and regional projects. Republican leaders have raised doubts about the legislation’s chances of winning support in their caucuses.
But Evers said the Capitol needs to “find ways to trust local governments.”‘
“Local governments don’t raise taxes because they want to hurt people,” Evers said. “They want to solve problems.”
After the luncheon, Evers rejected the suggestion that politics played a role in his decision to schedule a special election to fill the 7th CD.
Republicans on Monday charged Evers took the step to avoid lining up the race for the heavily GOP seat with the April ballot, when the presidential primary and Supreme Court contest will be decided. They argued Evers was trying to avoid bringing out more Republicans who would then vote in the Supreme Court race.
Evers acknowledged the special election — with a Dec. 30 primary and Jan. 27 general on a Monday — will be a burden for northern Wisconsin clerks. Still, Evers said he wanted to fill the seat quickly.
Under state law, the earliest Evers could call the special election is Jan. 21, but that would’ve meant a Christmas Eve primary. State law bans a special election for the House seat after Feb. 1 unless it lines up with the regularly scheduled spring election.
“What factored in my decision is getting someone representing that congressional district as soon as possible,” Evers told reporters. “Think about the things that are needed to be dealt with by Congress, ranging from impeachment to making sure that we have a good trade deal for our farmers. It had nothing to do with (politics). It had to do with people being represented in a timely fashion.”
Evers passed when asked if he supported impeaching the president, saying he’s focused on Wisconsin.
“That’s for the people in Washington, D.C., and their constituents in Wisconsin,” Evers said.
Listen to Evers’ avail with reporters:
See WisconsinEye video of the luncheon: