Last Thursday, February 28, 2019, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers unveiled his budget for 2019/2021…as the People’s Budget!
“At the end of the day, our budget is about putting people first,” Gov. Evers said to a joint legislative session. “It’s about creating a Wisconsin that works for everyone–a Wisconsin for us. This isn’t the Tony Evers budget, the Democratic budget, the Speaker’s budget, or the Republican budget–this is The People’s Budget. And it’s one that we crafted together.”
And it’s one that we crafted together. Well there is some truth to that…the governor and lieutenant governor traveled the state and had listening sessions on the budget and some of the items in the budget came from those sessions. And many of the items in the budget are popular items that were part of the platform that the governor ran on.
But part of the ‘we’ got left out. The Republicans in the Assembly and Senate. Governor Evers missed an opportunity here to work in a bipartisan effort to craft a budget that might stand a chance getting passed without a lot of shouting if he had opened early in the season sessions with the GOP. I understand why he didn’t do that.
They would have run to the press anytime they didn’t like anything under discussion before it was ready for prime time. We’ve seen that pretty consistently from GOP leadership since the election last November. And after their repeated insistence that they were going to ignore the new governor’s budget and base their own new budget on the 2008/2019 year as the starting point…I guess I’d be disinterested in asking them to participate anyway.
But Governor Evers could have. I had expected him to reach out a bit more. He already has a history with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald after his tenure as Superintendent of Public Instruction…and at one point they said they could work with him…despite their new post election stance of total opposition.
But the budget is out there now…the People’s Budget…and the GOP has found almost nothing to like in it…despite the governor’s efforts to include some things that have been GOP talking points for years.
So here’s where we are at. The governor has proposed his budget…the GOP leadership has reiterated their determination to draft their own budget…and the governor has said he might veto a GOP derived budget in it’s entirety if it doesn’t meet the needs of the state (the first time that would happen in like 80 years?). That kind of stalemate shouldn’t even be considered.
So I propose that Governor Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald sit down and meet to get some negotiation and compromise started based on the People’s Budget. I would be willing to moderate and buy the first couple pitchers of beer…since we probably won’t agree on what we like to drink…sigh! You think Spotted Cow might be acceptable all round? (oh yeah, no way! so I am open to suggestions)
But seriously. None of us should accept the stalemate building in Madison. Unilateral budgets shouldn’t be passed back and forth across the rotunda…passed…vetoed…revoted…retooled…again and again. A budget should be hammered out in the leadership offices and party committee rooms and sent to the floor in pretty much their final forms. That’s what the job is supposed to be.
Extra credit reading: The People’s Budget is a Win for Wisconsin by State Senator Jennifer Shilling