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Wisconsin governor says he’s listening to the people, not GOP lawmakers

Associated Press

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FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, file photo, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a news conference in Kenosha, Wis., as Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes stands at rear. The fight over control of Wisconsin’s share of the $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus stimulus package ramps up Tuesday, March 23, 2021, in the state Legislature, with Republicans voting on a bill to take away Evers' ability to decide how to spend the estimated $5.7 billion coming for state and local governments. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers said Thursday that he hasn’t met with Republican legislative leaders to discuss his $91 billion state budget proposal because he’s listening to what the people of Wisconsin want and that GOP lawmakers should do the same.

Republicans who control the Legislature’s budget committee are expected to vote as soon as next week to remove many of Evers’ priorities, such as expanding Medicaid and legalizing recreational marijuana, as they begin to create the next budget.

“It’s clear from my vantage point the people of Wisconsin need to be heard from,” Evers said outside of a Madison elementary school, where he was joined by the district’s superintendent and Democrats on the budget committee. “At this point in time, I don’t think (Republicans) are listening to the people of Wisconsin. That’s the bottom line.”

He said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu “need to listen to the people of Wisconsin, too.”

LeMahieu said in a statement that he wanted to meet with Evers.

“I’d really like to have a more regular dialogue with him. I think the people of Wisconsin benefit when we all work together,” LeMahieu said. “I’m willing to do that.”

Vos said in a statement that Republicans were also listening to the people, and that Evers was just trying to get what he wants without input from the GOP-controlled Legislature.

“The governor’s proposal is not serious and Republicans will again write a responsible budget that funds the state’s priorities,” he said.

Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Mark Born, did not immediately reply to messages.

Evers’ budget advances a host of liberal priorities that Republicans have promised to kill, including Medicaid expansion, legalizing pot, increasing the minimum wage and allowing front-line workers to collectively bargain, which would partially repeal the Act 10 law passed a decade ago.

Evers also wants to increase funding for public and private K-12 schools by $1.6 billion, which would be the largest hike ever, cut taxes for poor families, and raise taxes on manufacturers and the wealthy. He also wants to keep a University of Wisconsin tuition freeze in place while increasing funding by $190 million and allowing UW to borrow money to offset losses caused by the pandemic.

The Legislature’s budget committee held its final public hearing Wednesday on Evers’ plan, which runs from July through mid-2023. The committee will next start taking votes to reshape the budget before it heads to the Senate and Assembly for approval. Evers can also make significant changes through his expansive line-item veto power.

Evers signed the last state budget in 2019 after every Democrat in the Legislature voted against it.

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