Gov. Tony Evers called his reelection the rejection of a “return to the bitter politics of resentment” as he called for the Capitol to work together on goals such as funding schools and overturning the state’s 174-year-old abortion ban.
Shortly after Chief Justice Annette Ziegler administered the oath to Evers yesterday, the guv proclaimed he was “jazzed as hell” and humbled to be sworn in again.
Evers said voters in November “rejected a trajectory bent toward permanently undermining the tenets and institutions that are fundamental to who we are as a people” and “a rhetoric born out of apathy and animosity toward our neighbors.”
“Given the opportunity to abandon the virtues that define us, Wisconsinites chose to embrace a better history,” Evers said. “Given the opportunity to retreat into division and doubt, Wisconsin chose a future of unity and faith. Given the opportunity to further enable cynicism and hate, Wisconsinites chose kindness, and they chose hope instead.”
The speech was a mix of looking back at the fall election and laying out some of his priorities for the upcoming budget, which he will deliver Feb. 15.
Those budget priorities include funding schools, expanding health care and attracting more workers to the state. The speech also touched on abortion as Evers argued overturning the state’s 1849 ban — which only allows an exception to save the life of the mother — would make Wisconsin a more welcoming place for businesses and workers looking to relocate.
Evers argued people voted for him because they believe as he does that the state should fully fund public schools, that climate change is real, that tax relief should be targeted at the middle class rather than millionaires and billionaires, and the state should expand BadgerCare.
They also, he said, believe Wisconsin “shouldn’t be beholden to a law from the 1800s passed well before women had the right to vote, because they believe people should have the freedom to make their own reproductive health decisions without needing permission from politicians.”
While Evers urged the Capitol to come together, several of his priorities keep him at odds with GOP legislative leaders, who have shown no interest in fully overturning the state’s 1849 abortion ban. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has floated adding exceptions to the ban for cases of rape and incest, while Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said yesterday he wasn’t sure bringing up such a bill would be worthwhile since Evers has already pledged to veto it.
They also have both expressed a desire to lower the state’s top income tax bracket of 7.65 percent, another point of contention with Evers.
LeMahieu and Vos both called Evers’ speech political in separate availabilities with reporters.
LeMahieu questioned the guv’s call to work together while focusing on partisan issues. He also continued to push for a move toward a flat tax. Illinois now has a flat individual income tax rate of 4.95 percent. LeMahieu said he would like to be lower than that but believed Wisconsin’s top rate of 7.65 percent should be lowered to where Illinois now is.
Meanwhile, Vos said Evers spent most of his speech talking like it was a “campaign rally.”
Wisconsin now has four rates with the top one kicking in for married joint filers reporting income above $374,600.
“That’s not just millionaires and billionaires making that money,” LeMahieu said. “That’s small businesses in our communities that are sponsoring the softball leagues, that are struggling to hire employees, struggling with inflationary pressures, so it’s important to give tax relief to all Wisconsinites, not just a few.”
In his speech, Evers said the state faces the task of undoing “the damage that’s been caused to our democracy” and restoring “trust in a system that has served our country for centuries. But together we can. And together we will.”
Former Govs. Jim Doyle, Scott McCallum, Tommy Thompson and Martin Schreiber attended the ceremonies. The only living former guvs who didn’t attend were Tony Earl, who is 86, and Scott Walker, who Evers defeated in 2018 for his first term.