WI Governor race
(Illustration by Desirée Tapia)

Republican lawmakers are not likely to end their 10-month paid break while sitting on a $5 billion surplus.

Presenting a vivid study in contrasts, Gov. Tony Evers unveiled a new plan Tuesday to use the state’s record-high budget surplus on tax cuts, insulin price caps, and tax credits that target parents, caregivers, and veterans—while Republican challenger Tim Michels and other GOP leaders called a news conference to conjure images of Kenosha on the second anniversary of a police officer shooting a black man seven times in the back.

Evers’ proposal would cut income taxes by 10% for individuals earning less than $100,000 and families earning less than $150,000. He also proposes to cap co-pays for insulin at $35, repeal the state’s minimum markup law in an effort to lower gas prices, and to bolster tax cuts that would benefit seniors on fixed incomes, expand property tax relief for veterans with disabilities, and attempt to lower the cost of caregiving and child care.

“Our state is in a strong fiscal position, and there is no reason these dollars should sit in state coffers when families need help now,” Evers said. “We can help lower out-of-pocket costs for Wisconsinites today while providing long-term tax relief and still making sure we have readily available state resources to invest in our priorities in the next state budget.”

The state’s projected budget surplus by mid-2023 has steadily grown as tax collections have continued to exceed estimates. The latest projected surplus was $3.8 billion, but Evers said Tuesday that it is expected to grow to as much as $5 billion.

Republicans who control the Legislature ended the 2022 session in late February and are not likely to come back into session to take any action on the surplus—and will continue being paid as full-time lawmakers until the new session begins next January.

Michels, a construction company executive, joined Republican attorney general nominee Eric Toney, and US Rep. Bryan Steil in front of a boarded-up building to talk about civil unrest following the 2020 police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The building had last been used as a restaurant that closed in 2018.

The group toured other sites that had been damaged following the Blake shooting and subsequent protests that turned deadly when Kyle Rittenhouse drove to Kenosha from Illinois and shot three people, killing two of them. The Republicans then hosted a roundtable discussion with law enforcement. Michels thanked the Kenosha Professional Police Association for their endorsement.

Last year, Evers signed into law four police reform bills based on recommendations from the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities, a group formed after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed as a result.  The measures prohibit chokeholds except in life-or-death situations, require public access of departments’ use-of-force policies, require the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) to compile reports on use-of-force incidents, and allocate $600,000 in grant funds for establishing Community Oriented Policing (COP) houses.

While the bills received broad support, Evers emphasized at the time that they did not go far enough to address racial disparities in policing. The task force made a total 18 recommendations. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.