Two conservative lawmakers are warning of “civil disobedience” and “revolt” against restrictions imposed by Gov. Tony Evers’ administration to curb the spread of coronavirus — comments the governor suggested could damage the state’s effort to contain the virus.State Sens. Steve Nass of Whitewater and Duey Stroebel of the Town of Cedarburg said Friday the latest order by Evers to close dozens of state parks could result in significant pushback if Evers’ orders to stay at home, which have closed scores of businesses, bars and restaurants, continue.
Both also suggested it’s unfair that public employees are not being subject to pay cuts as owners and employees of private companies are losing work — an idea Evers also rejected Friday.
“I hope the Governor and other officials in the administration understand the closing of 40 state parks for dubious reasoning at best is only one flashpoint in a growing revolt to how the Covid-19 response has been handled in Wisconsin,” Nass wrote in an email to Evers’ legislative liaison.
“This week has been a turning point in how the public now views some of the decisions made by this administration under the Governor’s Emergency Declaration and the uneven exercise of those emergency powers,” he said.
Evers suggested Friday the comments from Nass and Stroebel could create more division and take focus off keeping people healthy.
“C’mon folks, the rhetoric around this topic is escalating in a direction that is not helpful,” he told reporters Friday. “We hope we can continue to defeat the virus instead of defeating each other.”
Some Wisconsin Republicans have questioned whether Evers’ decision to close schools, bars, restaurants, and other businesses not considered to be providing essential services, was necessary given the number of cases of the virus in Wisconsin.
Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said without the Evers administration’s order to stay at home, the agency projected cases of the virus to be 22,000 as of this week. As of Friday, there are 3,068 cases in the state.
Palm said the number of cases is directly related to the restrictions.
“Until we have a vaccine, or until we have medical intervention … we are going to have to very actively manage this outbreak and safer at home (order) is the current tool we are using,” Palm told reporters Friday.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Friday “most of the country” will not be able to reopen by May 1, despite suggestions from some Trump administration officials that next month may be a time to revisit strict social distancing guidelines.
And projections by the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services show lifting stay-at-home orders, school closures and social distancing restrictions after 30 days would lead to a dramatic infection spike this summer and death tolls that would rival doing nothing, according to a New York Times report.
Stroebel said Evers’ orders should be re-evaluated and involve a “cost/benefit analysis.”
“Every sickness and death is a tragedy, but so are businesses and livelihoods ruined by shelter in place orders,” he said in a statement. “Besides being counterproductive, indefinite sheltering orders will eventually lead to civil disobedience.”
Stroebel also raised alarm bells about the state’s finances, saying the promises of the current state budget— which provides funding through 2021 — won’t be able to be kept under the current economy. He and Nass pointed out in their statements public employees haven’t been subject to pay cuts like others.
“It is irresponsible to conceal the truth from Wisconsinites that we will likely be unable to live up to all the promises of the current state budget,” he said. “I am not going to tell constituents, who are losing their businesses, getting laid off and seeing their nest eggs dip with the stock market to pay higher taxes so that state and local employees can avoid unpaid furloughs, or so that government programs can grow at twice the rate of inflation.”
When asked whether he would consider imposing pay cuts for public employees, Evers said the idea was insulting to public workers.
“The tens of thousands of state employees who are doing work for the state of Wisconsin are doing essential work,” Evers said, citing examples of workers processing unemployment claims, working in long-term care facilities for military veterans and overseeing state prisons. “To suggest that somehow state employees are not valued … I value them and the people of Wisconsin value them.”