State lawmakers will be sworn in today for a new two-year session of the Wisconsin legislature.For the second session in a row, Republicans will control all levers of state government, from the governor's office to the Senate and Assembly. The question now is how they plan to use it.
GOP leaders have sent mixed messages. Soon after the November election, Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald signaled a desire for things to get back to normal, "You know, I truly believe that there's kind of a renewed effort to work across the aisle and get back to kind of a normal temperature when it comes to the legislature."
Incoming Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has also stressed collegiality this session, but with a 60 seat majority he wants an aggressive agenda for Republicans. That includes an income tax cut in Wisconsin, and Vos has been fairly specific about which income levels should get it, "If you are between $20,000 and $200,000, it is a bad place to be a middle-income taxpayer."
Vos has also talked about reorganizing higher education in Wisconsin and rewriting the state's voluminous administrative code. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Political Scientist Mordecai Lee, a former Democratic lawmaker, predicts people will be amazed at how the next Republican budget will transform state government in a way that makes it more conservative, "In other words, they're going to try to peel back I guess you might say 20 or 30 years of liberal and Democratic legislation that they weren't able to pay attention to in that first budget, the one that came right after Act 10."
The details of those changes--if they happen--should become clear over the next several months. In the meantime, Republicans have said their first priority will be a rewrite of Wisconsin's mining laws.