Wisconsin Voters’ Four Biggest Concerns, and How Evers, Michels Would Respond

By Christina Lorey

October 11, 2022

According to the latest polling, Wisconsinites care most about inflation, crime, election integrity, and public schools.

Four weeks from Election Day, Wisconsin’s gubernatorial candidates are locked in an airtight race. Incumbent Gov. Tony Evers (D) and challenger Tim Michels (R) are tied in the latest CBS News-YouGov poll, pulling in 50% support each. 

But the poll also revealed a clear contrast in likability. A little more than half of Wisconsinites, 53%, said they liked how Evers handles himself, compared to 43% for Michels. Evers was also more liked than Sen. Ron Johnson (49%) and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (43%), the two men running for Wisconsin’s US Senate seat.  

What Wisconsin Voters Care About

In addition to forecasting which candidates are most likely to win, statistical polls also highlight what issues will drive voters to the physical polls this November.

According to September’s Marquette Law School Poll, the top three issues for Wisconsin voters are inflation, crime, and a tie between election integrity and public schools.  

As we did with Wisconsin’s US Senate candidates, we will be comparing Gov. Tony Evers and Tim Michels on each of these issues, highlighting what they’ve said, done, and plan to do to help you understand how your life could change if either is elected or re-elected next month.

Inflation

Gov. Tony Evers

What He’s Said: [of the state’s historically large surplus] “$5 billion is a lot of money, and we need to get it back into people’s pockets.”

What He’s Done:

  • Signed an emergency order prohibiting price gouging of gasoline and diesel
  • Urged lawmakers to return to the Capitol and pass a budget surplus plan, which would use a portion of the state’s $3.8 billion surplus for $150/person rebates 
  • Led Wisconsin to a 2.8% unemployment rate 
  • Cut taxes by $500 million for small businesses

What He’d Do:

  • Pass his budget plan, which would provide $600 million in tax relief 
  • Cut taxes by 10% for people making less than $100,000 and couples making less than $150,000
  • Push the EPA to allow year-round sale of E15 fuel, which is cheaper for drivers 
  • Get rid of the Minimum Markup law, which would lower Wisconsin’s gas prices by 18 to 30 cents
  • Invest $16 million in a special property tax fund, which would give an estimated 80,000 Wisconsin veterans an extra $2,000
  • Raise the limit for state’s homestead tax credit, expand eligibility for the property tax credit, and create a caregiver tax credit

Tim Michels 

What He’s Said: “I am going to sit down with all the smart tax people. We’re going to figure out how low we can get the income tax.”

What He’s Done:

  • Blamed Gov. Evers for making inflation “worse,” flip-flopping on his stance that governors can’t control inflation
  • Said he’s “open” to a flat tax, a policy which some economic experts describe as a regressive giveaway to the rich
  • Vowed to implement “massive tax reform” by lowering the income tax and eliminating the personal property tax on businesses

What He’d Do: 

  • “Take a look” at changing Wisconsin’s personal income tax rate to 5% for everyone (currently ranges between 3.54% and 7.65%)
  • Eliminate the personal property tax
  • Protect business owners “from acts of domestic terrorism” (has not provided a specific plan)

Crime

Gov. Tony Evers

What He’s Said: “If Tim Michels really wanted to be helpful on [crime], he’d convince Republican legislators that there is something called shared revenue. Shared revenue is a huge way that we fund the police in the state of Wisconsin. I’ve proposed increases in the last two budgets. And guess what? Republicans zeroed it out.”

What He’s Done:

  • Invested more than $100 million in public safety programs
  • Sent $56 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to Milwaukee to pay for more police and address a pandemic-related backlog of court cases
  • Proposed an increase to shared revenue spending, which partially funds police, fire, and rescue services in his most recent budget (but it was the first thing Republicans cut)
  • Supported common sense gun safety measures

What He’d Do:

  • Implement a background check requirement for every gun purchased, including guns bought online and at gun shows
  • Adopt a common sense “Red Flag” law that temporarily removes guns from people who pose a danger to others or themselves
  • Invest in after school and out-of-school programming in high-crime areas, as well as addiction and mental health treatment
  • Change Wisconsin’s bail system, allowing judges to fully assess the person’s safety risk to the community before releasing them pre-trial

Tim Michels 

What He’s Said: “We have a governor who coddles criminals.”

What He’s Done:

  • Said “dangerous neighborhoods” should hire more police officers
  • Called for the prosecution of Black Lives Matter protest participants without differentiating rioters from peaceful protesters
  • Claimed Evers released more criminals early than former Gov. Walker, when in fact Walker released nearly 1,400 people through discretionary and mandatory parole and Evers released 895
  • Pushed to expose “weak” prosecutors and judges by publishing their records, personal information

What He’d Do: 

  • Send 50% more police officers to “our most dangerous neighborhoods” in his first year
  • Get “tough” on “defund the police” by imposing a 1.5x state aid penalty for communities that don’t increase law enforcement budgets
  • Enact a mandatory, two-year minimum prison sentence for felons convicted of gun possession
  • Replace the Green Bay prison with a larger facility that could increase the number of incarcerated from 1,000 to 1,500
Wisconsin Voters’ Four Biggest Concerns, and How Evers, Michels Would Respond

Election Integrity

Gov. Tony Evers

What He’s Said: “One of the most important facets of people participating in democracy is voting. And if we make it more difficult for eligible people to vote, that’s a problem for me and it’s a problem for everybody.”

What He’s Done:

  • Vetoed every bill that would have added additional voting restrictions and made it harder for Wisconsinites to vote
  • Pushed to allow local clerks to securely start counting absentee ballots the Monday before the election to expedite official certification
  • Stood up for local election workers amidst threats
  • Called out Republican leadership who, without any evidence, alleged “widespread fraud” in the 2020 election

What He’d Do:

  • Follow the will of the people and commit to certifying future election results
  • Improve election transparency by continuing to allow clerks to start counting ballots the day before the election to speed up and improve confidence in election night reporting
  • Continue to stand up to anyone who intimidates local election officials

Tim Michels 

What He’s Said: “Certainly there was a lot of bad stuff that happened. There were certainly illegal ballots. How many? I don’t know if anybody knows.”

What He’s Done:

  • Called the 2020 election “maybe stolen” without any evidence to back his claim
  • Won’t commit to accepting the 2022 election results 
  • Fueled Donald Trump and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ baseless claims of widespread voter fraud

What He’d Do: 

  • Keep decertifying the 2020 election results “on the table,” although that can’t happen under state law or the US Constitution
  • Sign a number of voter restriction bills into law, which would make it harder to vote
  • Ban election drop boxes, which make it easier for voters to submit their ballots
  • Ban pop-up polling places

Public Schools

Gov. Tony Evers

What He’s Said: “Budgets are about priorities, and that’s why building our biennial budget always begins for me with doing what’s best for our kids. We know our kids, families, and schools need our help now more than ever to get caught up.”

What He’s Done:

  • Increased the state’s budget for public school funding by the largest amount in 15 years
  • Helped Wisconsin’s K-12 schools jump from #18 to #8 in US News and World Report’s national 2022 rankings
  • Lobbied the legislature to use an additional $2 billion of the state’s $5 billion surplus in next year’s budget
  • Vetoed a bill that would have used taxpayer money to allow any student to qualify for a private school voucher

What He’d Do:

  • Invest $10 million in public school programs geared toward reading and literacy
  • Spend $5 million in public high schools to teach students financial literacy
  • Pour $20 million into before and after-school programming
  • Allocated $240 for in-school mental health services
  • Increase the reimbursement rate for special education aid from 30 to 60% over the next three years
  • Ensure property taxes don’t increase by using $800 million of Wisconsin’s $5 billion surplus to offset public school improvements

Tim Michels 

What He’s Said: “Competition [through school choice] makes everyone perform better. If not, your business or your school loses. I know education is not a business, but we need to approach it with a results-oriented approach.”

What He’s Done:

  • Proposed universal school choice, which would take funding away from public schools
  • Criticized public schools for being too “inclusive,” raising the Pride flag during Pride Month, and using students’ preferred pronouns

What He’d Do: 

  • Ensure schools are “safe and secure” through annual reviews and safety grants, no gun control laws or reform
  • Allow any student in the state to qualify for a voucher, which uses taxpayer money to pay for kids to go to private schools
  • Introduce a Parental Bill of Rights to put parents “first” in their child’s education
  • Support the Republican plan to break up Milwaukee Public Schools into four to eight smaller districts

RELATED: Why Wisconsin’s Senate Race May Be the Most Important in the Country

Wisconsin Voters’ Four Biggest Concerns, and How Evers, Michels Would Respond

The Bottom Line

Your vote matters. Especially in Wisconsin. With multiple neck-and-neck races and important issues on next month’s ballot, make your plan to vote today, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Click here to check your registration status.

Visit our Voter Hub for more information on who and what is on your ballot.

Author

  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

CATEGORIES: POLITICS | VOTING

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