Evers calls for unity in partisan inaugural speech

Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 4, 2023

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — After taking the oath of office for a second term, Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday called for unity to transcend division in Wisconsin politics. His partisan rhetoric and far left agenda, however, undercut the Democrat’s conciliatory language, Republican lawmakers said.

Evers suggested his narrow victory in November has given him a mandate to govern for the next four years.

“Wisconsin rejected a rhetoric born out of apathy and animosity toward our neighbors. And Wisconsin rejected a return to the bitter politics of resentment,” he said during his inauguration speech before Supreme Court members, cabinet secretaries, lawmakers and other invited guests in the Capitol Rotunda.

For someone talking up faith and unity, Evers sure spent a lot of time beating up on his political enemies — the Republican majority that controls the state Legislature. He occupied much of his first term alternately attacking and shunning conservative lawmakers, at the peril of many of his policy goals.

“I don’t know there was anything today in the slightest that the governor said that sought to bridge a gap and actually make any effort to compromise with the Legislature,” said Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere).

Evers claimed the election results show Wisconsinites want policymakers to “fully fund our public schools,” omitting the fact that Wisconsin schools have received record funding in recent years as student achievement levels continue to decline.

He claimed his re-election means voters want more extreme climate change policies, expanded welfare programs, and initiatives that will grow the size and power of government — all which were nonstarters for Republicans in his last two budget proposals.

“Governor Evers’ calls for bipartisanship and unity will ring hollow if he insists on defining ‘bipartisan’ as the garden variety liberal agenda,” said Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville). “It becomes even more difficult to ‘forge forward, together’ when those who do not share his liberal political ideology are caricatured as threats to both democracy and the ‘tenets and institutions’ of our constitutional republic.”

Evers did indeed double down on the left’s election denier rhetoric, picking up the Democratic Party’s talking points that representative democracy was at risk — that voting for Democrats somehow saved the republic.

The governor and Wisconsin’s new lieutenant governor, Sara Rodriguez, each took aim at last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision ending Roe v. Wade, as well as the state law that bans abortion in most cases. While Evers has said he wants to go back to abortion law as it was for nearly 50 years before the court ruling, he hasn’t said what restrictions he could live with.

“He continues to abide by the most extreme pro-abortion platform that we’ve ever seen from a state Democratic Party,” Jacque said. “It seems to be an obsession that they can’t move beyond.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, part of the nation’s largest abortion provider, applauded Evers’ address.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Evers administration to achieve needed change and secure a better future for the people of Wisconsin,” said Steven Webb II, PPAW executive director. Planned Parenthood pumped a lot of money into Evers’ campaign, and Evers returned the favor through federally funded COVID relief grants. 

In his inauguration speech, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) recalled the miserable fiscal position Wisconsin was in when Republicans took over control of the Legislature in 2011. The state faced a $3 billion budget deficit. Today, after a dozen years and billions of dollars in surpluses and tax cuts, Wisconsin boasts a nearly $7 billion budget surplus. As inflation continues to soar and the shadow of recession looms, LeMahieu said the best way to move Wisconsin forward is to reduce the tax burden for all.

“We need to remember why we are in our current position. We have worked on legislation to advance the best interest of Wisconsin while remaining fiscally conservative,” the majority leader said. “We look forward to working with the Governor and Assembly to make sure that we not only provide transformational tax relief, but also solutions that benefit the great state of Wisconsin.” 

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