Gov. Tony Evers delivered his budget address Tuesday night from the Capitol in Madison. (Screenshot via WisEye.)
Gov. Tony Evers delivered his budget address Tuesday night from the Capitol in Madison. (Screenshot via WisEye.)

But both sides will eventually need to find some middle ground for a state budget to take effect in July.

Gov. Tony Evers pitched his two-year, $91 billion budget plan Tuesday night, laying out a roadmap that he claims will allow the state to emerge from the pandemic better than it was before.

“We find ourselves with a decision to make,” said Evers during his budget address delivered virtually. “When this pandemic is over, we could go back to the way things always were and always have been, or we can take this moment to demand the future we dream.”

His budget plan calls for legalizing marijuana, rolling back components of Act 10, the union-busting legislation passed by Republicans 10 years ago, increasing the minimum wage, reforming the criminal justice system and calling for the troubled juvenile centers—Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake—to be closed, investing heavily in K-12 and UW System campuses, and a $200 million investment to keep struggling small businesses afloat.

Specifically, Evers’ spending plan calls for a $1.6 billion investment in k-12 school funding, with $709 million funneled toward special education aid. Evers also is calling for continuing the tuition freeze on the UW System campuses, while at the same time “funding the freeze” with a $190 million investment into the state’s four-year college system. 

“At the end of the biennium when all is said and done, the state will again be investing more GPR dollars annually in the UW System than the Department of Corrections,” Evers said. 

Evers’ budget now heads to the GOP-controlled Legislature and the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee that is chaired by Republicans. It will face an uphill battle. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) immediately called the plan a “liberal spending agenda,” while the JFC Republican co-chairs also expressed concerns in a statement. 

“You can disagree with me if you want, but don’t punish the people we serve so you can settle a score no one but you is keeping,” Evers said in a warning to Republicans. “Each time a bill fails to pass, each time a compromise ends up in flames, each time legislators lose sight of the people who sent you here, the disappointment, the resentment, the disparities grow.”