Tony Evers Sworn in for Second Term as Governor
Inauguration Day in Wisconsin took place on January 3. Democratic incumbents Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul began their second terms in office, while Sara Rodriguez was sworn in as the state’s new lieutenant governor. Gov. Evers spent the majority of his second inaugural address laying out his administration’s goals and policy priorities for the next four years, including the following statements:
- “Fully fund our public schools, keep class sizes small, invest in kids’ mental health, and retain and build upon our talented education workforce” and “make quality childcare and early childhood education more affordable and accessible.”
- Provide tax relief for “the middle class” and “working families,” not “big breaks to millionaires and billionaires.”
- “Expand BadgerCare and work to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare” and “lower the cost of medication and cap the cost of insulin.”
- “Restore the freedoms that Wisconsinites had until June 23, 2022, the day before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.”
- “Ensure that every Wisconsinite has access to clean, safe water… that means urgently addressing PFAS and lead and nitrates and getting those contaminants out of our water.”
2023-24 Legislature Begins with 31 New Members
Inauguration Day also marked the beginning of the 2023-24 Session of the Wisconsin Legislature, and 31 new members were sworn in, nearly 25 percent of the Legislature’s total membership. Republicans continue to control both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature with strong majorities. Caucus leadership from both parties has remained mostly the same, while the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee will have five new members.
In the 33-member Senate, there will be seven new members, five Republicans and two Democrats. Sen. Cory Tomczyk (R-Mosinee) will be brand new to the Legislature; the other new members of the Senate previously served in the Assembly. In the 99-member Assembly, there will be 24 new members, 16 Republicans and eight Democrats.
This turnover was almost entirely due to legislators retiring or seeking other offices. Only Rep. Don Vruwink (D-Milton), who was moved into a differently numbered district due to redistricting, lost his bid for reelection. Shortly after the election, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) retired, setting up a special election to select her replacement.
Key Issues: State Budget and Tax Reform
With another legislative session comes another biennial state budget bill, and Wisconsin is expected to have a surplus of $6.6 billion when the current biennium ends on July 1.
Late last year, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said a top priority for him will be for the 2023-25 budget to cut taxes by at least $3.4 billion and possibly “significantly” more. The 2021-23 budget cut income and property taxes by that amount.
During the 2022 election, Gov. Evers said that his upcoming budget proposal will include additional funding for K-12 education and an increase in shared revenue for municipalities. He also proposed an income tax cut of 10 percent for single filers at $100,000 or less and joint filers at $150,000 or less. Gov. Evers will present his executive budget proposal to a joint session of the Legislature on February 15.
Recently, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu proposed changing the state income tax to a flat rate of 3.25 percent for all taxpayers by 2026. Currently, Wisconsin’s income tax rates start at 3.54 percent and rise to a high of 7.65 percent. Speaker Vos has also indicated he would support a flat tax. Last month, Gov. Evers called a flat tax a “non-starter,” saying “we prefer a progressive tax system that we have now.”