A lot happened in the Wisconsin political world this June. It’s Wisconsin, so not too surprising. But if you were like us and too busy partying in the Deer District, you probably missed what was a very consequential month in the state Senate, Assembly, and Gov. Evers’ office.
Here’s the breakdown:
2021-23 State Budget
The state budget lived rent-free in Wisconsin lawmakers’ heads in June. Republicans and Democrats went back and forth with largely different spending agendas, but Gov. Evers ultimately signed the Republican-written budget that includes a $2 billion tax cut. For an in-depth look at the different proposals, check out our earlier blog post.
Wisconsin made an unprecedented $4.4 billion in tax revenue over the past three years. The official budget uses this surplus to:
- Reduce middle class taxes by 15%, mainly through lower income taxes
- Cut annual property taxes for an average home by $100
- End a UW-System tuition freeze, meaning in-state tuition can increase for the first time in eight years
- Increase salaries for state employees
Evers did make small vetoes to part of the Republican budget. He blocked moving funds to the transportation and rainy day funds to ensure they will be in the general fund, which is more accessible for schools and health care.
But Evers, a Democrat, signing widespread tax cuts and minimal school funding, still sounds bipartisan right? Well, apparently not.
Senator Devin LeMahieu said Evers “deserves no credit for signing our budget” and that he “is merely sensible enough to recognize a better budget when he sees one.” LeMahieu sounds like a Kindergartner claiming someone copied his Lego project: “Copycat! I did it first! Evers big bad!”
It is suspicious Evers took credit for the $2 billion tax cut when his budget proposal was far different from the Republican one, especially when he’s running for reelection. But can’t we smell the roses for a little bit though? Politics. Sigh.
K-12 Funding Debacle
The budget also has major consequences for K-12 schools, which unfortunately can’t be summarized in a mere bullet point. School districts are technically getting more state funding, but barely.
Money is set aside to pay off property taxes for school districts and counts as increases to school funding. These increases qualify Wisconsin for $2.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding for schools, which they will get. So like state funding, but indirectly.
Direct K-12 funding was increased by $128 million in the budget, less than 1/10th of what Evers recommended. Without more funding, schools might have to limit teacher salaries and cut liberal arts classes. Rural schools will be hit especially hard.
Other Bills Evers signed
Wisconsin Sports Betting
There’s good news for all the sports gamblers out there. Gov. Evers and the Oneida Nation signed a deal that will allow NBA, NFL, and MLB betting on Oneida Casino property. It marks the first time sports betting is legal in Wisconsin but is still subject to review by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Police Chokehold Ban
Gov. Evers signed the Senate’s bill to ban police chokeholds statewide. The tactic can still be used in life-threatening situations or if officers need to defend themselves. Many groups argued that this version of the bill did not go far enough.
No License Needed for Hair Braiding
Gov. Evers signed a bipartisan bill that officially recognizes no license is needed to practice hair braiding. The senators that introduced the bill argue the deregulation will allow more female entrepreneurs to practice braiding.
Lower Driving Permit Age
Wisconsin teenagers can now get a driving permit at age 15, 6 months earlier than before. The change will give drivers more practice behind the wheel before they get an actual license, and hopefully, reduce crashes. No news on ways to reduce crashes from drunk drivers.
Beavers and Muskrats Beware
Under a recent bill, beavers and muskrats can now be shot by the Department of Natural Resources if caught damaging a highway.
Other Bills Evers Definitely Won’t Sign
There were plenty of bills that were just too partisan to get to Evers’ desk or will soon be vetoed.
Make it Harder to Vote
Republican Assembly members sent multiple bills to Gov. Evers that would make absentee ballots harder to use. The bills would:
- Stop election officials from filling out certain parts of absentee ballots for the elderly and disabled
- Prevent absentee ballot collection events from happening before two weeks prior to election day
- Make it a felony for a nursing home employee to “coerce an occupant” into applying or not applying for an absentee ballot
Anti-Trans Sports Bill
Republican Assembly members also passed bills that would ban transgender athletes from playing for women’s sports teams at K-12 schools and college campuses.
An Assembly bill would prevent local governments from suing manufacturers for PFAS contamination in the area. PFAS are “forever chemicals” that are hard to break down in the environment and have adverse health effects for humans.
Second Amendment Sanctuary
A series of Senate bills aim to make Wisconsin a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” where guns built in-state that don’t leave the state would no longer be subject to federal regulation. That includes avoiding limits on semi-automatic weapons.
Critical Race Theory
Republican lawmakers created bills that would ban teaching critical race theory in public schools, the University of Wisconsin System, and state technical colleges. CRT teaches structural racism to students. Lawmakers claim the curriculum causes psychological distress. Cause children are the real snowflakes.
A bipartisan bill heard in the state Assembly would make Colby the official state cheese. It does feel necessary for America’s Dairyland to have an official cheese since we produce the most of it in the entire country. Colby though? That seems a little eh. But hey, if it gets lawmakers to actually agree for once, I’m on board.
- There’s now, like 10 people running in the democratic primary for Ron Johnson’s seat.
- Wisconsin U.S. House Representative Tom Tiffany was one of only 14 representatives to vote against making Juneteenth a holiday. He said it would just divide Americans based on skin color. He came to this conclusion after consulting with his myriad of Black friends.
- Wisconsin State Assembly Member Barb Dittrich kept calling transgender girls “biological men” on the Assembly floor recently. She forgot that gender goes beyond sex biology. Even sex is now considered a spectrum after studies found male-female chromosome differences are less clear.
- Gov. Evers announced $140 million that will be provided to tourism and entertainment businesses in the state. The money comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which gave money to each state to help these struggling industries recover from the pandemic.
- The Archdiocese of Milwaukee won’t turn over documents for the clergy sexual abuse scandal the state is investigating. The Department of Justice has received over 100 reports of abuse by clergy and faith leaders across the state.
- Former President Donald Trump called out Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Vos for not doing enough to investigate election voter fraud in the state. Vos responded by appointing former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to oversee the election probe he created last week that will pay retired police officers $3,200 per month to investigate “fraud.”
- Our state unemployment rate is still 3.9%, almost 2% less than the national unemployment rate, debunking the ideas that “no one wants to work”
No wonder we needed a break.