Wisconsin Gov. Evers pushing for tax cuts, higher spending on schools

MADISON, Wis. — The state budget proposal that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers plans to unveil today will include tax cuts for the middle class, a plan to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in their stadium until at least 2043, higher spending for public schools, and a new way to fund local governments.

Evers, a Democrat, will deliver his budget proposal to the Republican-controlled Legislature in a speech today night. Evers has already released several major parts of the plan.

Republicans, just as they did with his previous two budgets, have promised to ditch most of what he is asking for and start from scratch. That means Evers’ ideas like legalizing marijuana, spending $2.6 billion more on K-12 schools and automatic voter registration will almost certainly be jettisoned.

But there are signs of agreement.

Both sides want to tap the state’s record-high projected budget surplus of around $7 billion to cut taxes. But they are farther apart on how much should be spent and how.

Republicans favor implementing a flat income tax, which Evers opposes. He wants tax cuts to target the middle class. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has suggested a compromise can be reached.

Evers signed a budget two years ago that included a $2 billion income tax cut approved by the Republican Legislature. Vos has said he wants to cut taxes by more than $3.4 billion this time, while the Evers tax cut plan comes to about a third of that at $1.2 billion.

Evers got behind an idea discussed by Republicans to use about 20% of the state’s sales tax revenue to fund local governments. A broad coalition that includes counties, cities, towns, villages, law enforcement agencies and first responders are working to get more funding, a movement that appears to have bipartisan support.

Evers surprised Republicans with a plan announced this week to spend $290 million on repairs to American Family Field under a deal with the Brewers that would include them extending their lease by 13 years through 2043.

Republicans blanched at not being consulted ahead of time but also pledged to work with Democrats to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Evers also called for about a 15% spending increase for public schools, which amounts to $2.6 billion more in funding over the next two years. Evers last year had proposed spending $2 billion more, a plan that Vos at the time called a “feeble ploy” to win votes. Republicans favor spending more to expand the state’s private school choice program.

Evers will argue that his reelection win in November gives him a mandate to push for the priorities he lays out in his budget plan. Evers has also referenced public polling showing majority support for ideas that have long met resistance among Republicans, like legalizing marijuana.

Republicans will work over the next four months to rewrite and pass the two-year state budget. It will then go to Evers, who has the power to make changes with his line-item veto. The new budget takes effect in July and runs through June 30, 2025.