Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 11, 2023
MADISON — So much for “unity.”
Just days into the new session it looks like Gov. Tony Evers’ has ripped off his compromise disguise.
The Democrat, who just last week preached unity and finding common ground with the Republican majority in the Legislature, now says conservatives can forget about a flat tax or universal school choice this session.
“A flat tax, if that’s part of the budget, that could end it. If it’s universal school choice across the state for education, that could be a killer too. But we’ll see,” Evers told WISN-TV’s UPFRONT this week. “I don’t think any of those things are going to happen, so I’m planning on signing a good budget.”
Well, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) seems to have his heart set on a flat tax, and he plans to introduce legislation on the subject soon. He and others who like the flat tax idea think it would make for a “good budget.”
“Our neighbors in Michigan and Illinois have flat taxes, while Iowa is phasing in their new flat tax,” LeMahieu said in last week’s Republican radio address.
With a historic surplus approaching $7 billion, the majority leader says it’s time to take “bold steps” to reform Wisconsin’s tax laws “to help keep more dollars in the hands of the hard working families and businesses in Wisconsin.”
While other GOP leaders have suggested other tax reform ideas, including making Wisconsin the next state to eliminate the personal income tax, they seem to agree that tax breaks should go to everyone who pays taxes — including the people who pay the highest taxes.
Evers, per usual, is pushing class warfare-themed tax relief. He doesn’t want tax breaks going to “people that frankly don’t need tax relief.” Evers and his liberal friends, of course, will decide who needs what.
Same with expanding Wisconsin’s successful school choice program.
It should come as no surprise that Evers would draw a line in the sand on universal school choice. Proponents want to eliminate the enrolment and income caps on taxpayer-funded vouchers to private schools statewide. Evers, former state Department of Public Instruction superintendent and a long-time stooge of the teachers unions, wants to kill the school choice program, and pump a lot more money into Wisconsin’s public schools.
Enrollment in the state’s four private school parental choice programs topped 52,000 last fall, up 6.7 percent from the previous year, according to DPI data.
There are many reasons some parents want to take their kids out of the public school system, but declining student achievement and things like “family friendly” high school drag shows top a lot of lists.
Before the session started, Evers did something he hasn’t done in a couple of years: He reached out to Republican leadership. That was good for a day’s worth of headlines.
But the veneer of any conciliation from the governor’s office cracked on the first day of his second term in office, during his inaugural address, as he was characterizing anyone who disagrees with his liberal agenda an enemy of democracy.
Evers says he’s willing to hold out for that liberal agenda in the upcoming budget battles. He doesn’t have an election to worry about this time around. Conservatives should be happy to test him on that threat. Unlike at the federal level, there is no shutdown of Wisconsin state government; everything simply operates on the previous budget. Taxpayers could use the break.
The governor will unveil his proposed biennial budget next month. Don’t expect anything in the way of compromise in that document.