MADISON (WKOW) – Governor Tony Evers said his proudest accomplishment in his first 100 days in office was creating the “people’s budget,” a term used by Evers after touring the state collecting input from voters.
While he continues to tout his budget, Republicans have given clear signals they won’t support most of it. Evers said creating a budget focused on the input of Wisconsinites is an “achievement” despite proposals like Medicaid expansion that GOP leadership have called “non-starters.”
“I think many times people see the budget as this mysterious weird thing that they don’t have any input on it,” said Evers. “We’ve been greatly pleased with the outreach.”
He also praised withdrawing Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit aiming to repeal the Affordable Care Act and signing an anti-discrimination executive order focused on LGBTQ individuals.
On Evers’ first day in office, he signed the order to require state agencies to create policies banning discrimination against employees and to include protections on the basis of gender identity.
Some challenges Evers said he continues to face are laws restricting his executive powers. Courts have made decisions on three lame-duck lawsuits and one is scheduled to be heard in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court in May.
“It was a way to invalidate the election,” said Evers. “It continues to be something that didn’t need to happen.”
As Democrats and Republicans move past the lame-duck session, Evers said his relationship with GOP leadership is a work in progress. Evers said he continues to try and meet with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald but said those meetings don’t happen frequently.
“We don’t meet often, weekly – but we’ve met a couple (of) times right after the election.”
His statement comes after he met with Speaker Vos and Senator Fitzgerald last week behind closed doors as both sides continue to blame each other for lack of progress.
When asked if Evers has any regrets in his first 100 days, he hoped to propose initiatives to increase the salaries of teachers. As the former State Superintendent for the Department of Public Instruction, education was one of the priorities of his campaign and first weeks in office.
“We’re having shortages of teachers, people are having trouble hiring positions and some (of it) has to do with pay. Even though it’s done on the local level, if I have any regrets it’s not finding a way to make that at the state level.”
RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP
After the November election, President Donald Trump invited Gov. Evers and about a dozen other newly-elected governors to the White House. In total, Evers said he’s met with Trump twice and called their interactions “fine” with “no problems.”
When asked about his relationship with the president, Evers said he disagrees with a lot of his tweeting but is open to working with him on bipartisan measures.
“I think his way of communicating is inappropriate and not helpful… I want a good infrastructure bill. If we could get help from him on infrastructure needs, let’s make it happen.”
When it comes to finding a solution to fund roads in Wisconsin, Evers said lawmakers, including himself, need to convince taxpayers raising the gas tax is a workable solution.
“All of us need to do a better job of explaining it to the people of Wisconsin. It doesn’t surprise me no one wants to increase their taxes. The bottom line we need to fix our roads.”
A recent Marquette University Law School Poll showed a majority of taxpayers (57 percent) said they do not support raising the gas tax to fix roads. Evers’ budget includes an eight cent hike in the gas tax, increasing the current 32.0 cent rate to 40.9 cents. The flow of new revenue would reduce borrowing for transportation needs and increase funds for local and state roads.
His budget proposal also includes repealing the minimum markup on gas. Minimum markup prevents sellers from selling fuel at low prices, which could result in additional customers and eventually driving out the competition. Evers says his plan would eventually bring down fuel prices, even with a gas tax, because the markup law would save drivers 14 cents per gallon.
“We’re in a dilemma. We talked about it during the campaign and made sure we have more revenue than we do now, and stop borrowing. I was elected and so our proposal still stands.”