Gov. Tony Evers delivers the 2022 State of the State address. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)
Gov. Tony Evers delivers the 2022 State of the State address. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

Governor uses State of the State to call the Legislature into special session, but Republicans want to wait until after Evers wins or loses reelection.

Telling lawmakers “don’t sit here in a white, marble building with state coffers that are full and tell Wisconsinites who are working hard every day that we can’t afford to do more,” Gov. Tony Evers used his State of the State address Tuesday night to call a special session to invest the state’s new budget surplus now rather than wait until next year as Republicans want. 

“That’s baloney,” the governor said. “This is the people’s money. Let’s get it back to them.”

Evers wants to invest a portion of about $3 billion the state is expected to receive above earlier projections. He proposes sending relief directly to households, in the form of $150 tax rebate checks and putting $750 million into children’s education. Republicans who control the Legislature say they prefer to wait and turn the surplus into tax cuts in 2023, hoping a new governor will be replacing Evers who is running for reelection in November.

“Wisconsinites can’t wait,” Evers continued. “Indifference in this building is getting expensive, folks. And let me be frank: the people who will bear the burden of inaction are almost certainly not the people sitting in this chamber tonight.”

The governor has called several special sessions of the Legislature to take up issues that GOP lawmakers mostly ignored.  Republicans have refused to act on those measures and have simply gaveled in and out of those sessions without discussion.

Evers spent the first half of his address outlining various investments he made with federal pandemic relief funds. 

“I directed $100 million to support Wisconsin farmers through our Farm Support Program … was able to keep all 375 transportation projects during the 2020 construction season on track … [and] invested $1 billion into supporting our small businesses, farmers, and tourism, lodging, and entertainment industries. To date, we’ve supported more than 100,000 small businesses.”

Evers also announced he’s sending $25 million to the UW System “so they can use these dollars to fund the tuition freeze through the end of the biennium.”

The conclusion of the address was in keeping with recent needs to call out threats to democracy from supporters of former President Donald Trump who are embracing methods of overturning election results and moving control of elections to partisan politicians rather than bipartisan panels.

Saying Wisconsinites must embrace “the peaceful and respectful transfer of power [and] the fundamental right to cast a ballot,” Evers noted, “Democracy is not a prophecy; it is self-actuating. We must choose every day to continue this grand experiment. We must choose every day to accept the duty our forebears entrusted to us.”

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) gave the official GOP response to Evers’ speech and offered no retreat from the misinformation being peddled on elections. “The public’s confidence in our system has been shaken by ballot harvesting, drop boxes, ‘Zuckerbucks,’ and the lawlessness of some at the Wisconsin Elections Commission.” Each of the oft-repeated points are either unproven or have been disproven.

LeMahieu sounded themes about crime and Milwaukee school performance that were echoed by two Republican gubernatorial candidates, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and former Marine Corp officer Kevin Nicholson. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos responded to the speech by again equating Evers’ pandemic relief with welfare and promising to pass bills to punish the unemployed who take time to get better jobs.