(The Center Square) – Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday ordered lawmakers back to the Wisconsin Capitol to take-up his workforce development agenda, including a $365 million boost for child care workers across the state, but Republican lawmakers aren’t eager for the special session.
“With the largest surplus in state history, my biennial budget included meaningful, comprehensive, long-term investments and solutions to address Wisconsin’s long-standing workforce challenges, reduce barriers to employment, and prevent these challenges from becoming an unmitigated crisis that would have calamitous consequences for Wisconsin’s already-strapped workforce,” Evers said in a statement.
In all, Evers wants to spend $1 billion of Wisconsin’s remaining $4 billion.
Republican leaders immediately balked.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, noted Evers just signed a budget that includes a 10% spending increase and doesn’t include a tax cut for most Wisconsinites.
“Instead of returning the state surplus to hardworking Wisconsinites, Gov. Evers used his veto pen to raise taxes on every Wisconsinite making more than $27,630. Now he wants to use that same surplus to grow government and create new entitlement programs,” LeMahieu said. “The best way to fix Wisconsin’s workforce shortage is to create a competitive tax structure that will attract talent and private investment to our state.”
LeMahieu said the Senate “remains committed to providing meaningful tax relief for Wisconsin families and addressing our workforce shortage without growing government entitlement programs.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the governor is offering-up a “stunt.”
“Today’s announcement is nothing more than a rehash of Tony Evers’ tax and spend budget. Democrats at the federal level tried spending recklessly to help the workforce and all we got for it was crushing inflation. We are not going to do that in Wisconsin,” Vos said. “Republicans made the decision to return the budget surplus to the taxpayers through a middle-class tax cut. Gov. Evers vetoed it. Now he’s rushing to spend billions of dollars again so it can’t be given back.”
The governor wants to replace the nearly $400 million that Wisconsin child care providers lost when the COVID-19 emergency order expired. He asked lawmakers to include those dollars in the new two-year state budget, but the Republican-controlled legislature declined to do so.
Evers said his special session call a “second chance” for Republicans.
“I’m calling on the Legislature to finish their work on the 2023-25 biennial budget and pass a comprehensive plan to address our state’s chronic workforce issues. These challenges that have plagued our state for generations will continue, holding our economy, our families, and our state back,” Evers said.
Vos said Republicans are eyeing a second chance for the governor as well.
“Our priority when we return in September will be to give Gov. Evers another chance to fix his mistake by signing a middle-class tax cut,” Vos said.