Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is taking fire from within his party over his handling of the state budget.
In an online video for WisPolitics.com, former state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala called Evers’ work on the budget a “disaster” and said the governor and his team “were not up to this budget” — even though that team includes Chvala’s wife.
“I hate to say this, but Robin Vos won the battle of the budget,” Chvala said, referring to the Republican leader of the state Assembly. “Tony Evers lost and it was a disaster.”
Spokeswomen for Evers did not immediately respond Monday to questions about Chvala’s attacks.
Chvala made the comments Friday on “The Insiders,” an online show that features him and former GOP Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen discussing state politics. The pair fought regularly during the 1990s and early 2000s when they led the Legislature, and they left office after a scandal over campaigning on state time resulted in criminal charges.
Chvala said Evers should have vetoed the state budget and forced Republicans who control the Legislature to come up with a spending plan more to his liking. Evers chose not to take that unprecedented step and instead issued 78 partial vetoes this month to put more money toward schools and take out GOP provisions he didn’t like.
“Gov. Evers promised that he would fight like hell for the people of this state,” Chvala said. “Putting together a budget and having a few press conferences and appearing around the state is not fighting like hell. Fighting like hell is going through an uncomfortable summer and fall and getting the people of the state of Wisconsin, who are with you, to make sure that the Legislature comes around. And he would have won. He would have won a lot. Unfortunately, the governor didn’t recognize all the power he had.”
Chvala said Evers had public sentiment on his side on education and health care and could have forced Republicans to side with him. He said Evers had the upper hand because he isn’t up for re-election until 2022, while most lawmakers will be on the ballot next year.
“You would never see Tommy Thompson let an opportunity like this go,” Chvala said, referring to the former Republican governor. “He failed sadly, miserably. He’s a wonderful man. He has the right intentions. He has a good heart and he cares about the people of Wisconsin. But he — Gov. Evers and his team were not up to this budget and they lost terribly.”
Chvala did not note that among the people on Evers’ team is Chvala’s wife, Barbara Worcester. She serves as one of Evers’ deputy chiefs of staff and was heavily involved in putting together the budget.
Chvala did not immediately return a phone message Monday. Worcester did not immediately respond to questions sent by email.
Chvala, Jensen and three other lawmakers were charged in 2002 during the so-called caucus scandal for directing aides to campaign using state resources.
As part of a plea deal, Chvala was convicted of two felonies. Jensen was convicted of one misdemeanor.
(Side note: Chvala and I have a history. I worked on his first state Senate campaign in 1984, years before he turned into the attack dog that ran the state Senate because no other Democrat wanted to. Back in my business magazine days, I referred to him as Chuck “It’s been the rich vs. the rest of us” Chvala, an ironic statement coming from someone who didn’t become poor from politics. However, Chvala has faced some terrible personal tragedy in his life, and so I thought the personal attacks on him in the 1990s were out of line.)
As someone who didn’t really like the budget because it spent too much money, I must say it’s always fun to see Democrats cannibalizing each other. It’s hard to argue with Chvala, though, given that Evers tried to raise business taxes and failed, tried to raise income taxes and failed, tried to raise gas taxes and failed, and campaigned on a bunch of other things that were dead on arrival in the Legislature as well.
One wonders if Milwaukee and Madison realize they got an empty suit elected governor.