There is one move that Evers recently pulled that has flummoxed Vos and his fellow Republicans: He agreed with them.
Specifically, the governor signed the Republicans’ proposed budget into law, including a $2 billion tax cut.
It was a far, far different spending plan than the one the governor proposed himself earlier in the year, which included tax increases, Medicaid expansion, a minimum wage hike, the legalization of marijuana, the repeal of Act 10 and more spending on schools.
Evers said he approved the Republican-drafted budget, with a few minor changes, because he promised to cut income taxes for middle class residents by 10 percent. He made progress toward that goal in an earlier budget, but “I knew this would get us over that hump,” he said.
The governor also points out that, if he had vetoed the bill, the state could have lost out on $2.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds for schools.
Wisconsin political experts have also speculated that signing the budget could boost Evers’ reelection effort, because it lets him take credit for a major Republican priority: lowering taxes.
Even though Evers’ decision is a major win for Republicans, Vos is incredulous. Once Republicans rejected the governor’s budget, Evers never tried to fight for his priorities in the ensuing negotiations, Vos said. “Never a call. Never an email. Never even a text message or a contact to say: ‘Why don’t we talk about my priorities?’” he said. “Phoning it in would be the kindest way of putting what he did with the budget. If you’re serious about it, wouldn’t you actually lobby for it?”
Evers doesn’t see what good it would do to engage with such an intransigent foe.
The governor said if he called up Vos and pushed for, say, expanding Medicaid, which 70 percent of Wisconsin voters supported in a 2019 Marquette University Law School Poll, “he’d say, ‘No.’ End of story.”
“He wouldn’t say, ‘If you did this, I’d give you Medicaid.’ That’s not going to happen,” Evers said. “It might be dysfunctional, but he makes it clear he can essentially ignore the will of the people of Wisconsin, and, frankly, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
First: If Evers thinks expanding Medicaid is the will of Wisconsinites, then the will of Wisconsinites is wrong.
Remaining points: In a perfect world, the Assembly speaker would not have as much power as Vos has, and the governor would not have as much power as Evers has. This is not a perfect world. (For one thing, not a single Wisconsin elected official is prevented from spending or taxing as much as their fevered dreams could imagine by the state Constitution.) There is not a single issue I can think of on which Evers’ or Democrats’ positions are preferable to Republicans. Until a majority of Wisconsin voters start voting correctly, this is what it is.