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Evers continues to spearhead plans for budget surplus spending despite Republican opposition

Governor hopes to use part of $3.8B projected balance for tax credits, public education

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Gov. Tony Evers delivers his fourth State of the State address
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers delivers his fourth State of the State address at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. Photo courtesy of PBS Wisconsin

Gov. Tony Evers continued to make his case Thursday for a $150-a-person tax rebate after unveiling the plan during his State of the State address earlier this week.

Evers, a Democrat, is offering up the proposal as one possible use for part of a projected $3.8 billion budget surplus. He said his plan isn’t comparable to former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s election-year proposals in 2014 and 2018.

“People can be critical if they want to,” Evers said during a Thursday appearance on WPR’s “The Morning Show.” “This is a response to, first of all, good economics, good strategic use of federal money to make sure that our people are safe and the economy recovers.”

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Republican legislators have shot down the governor’s proposal as an election-year gimmick after supporting Walker’s tax ideas in 2014. It remains to be seen how the party’s members in the Legislature will respond to a special session about using the surplus, which Evers announced during the address Tuesday night.

Despite the obstacles, Evers said he believes the plan can get bipartisan support.

“I’m hopeful it will,” he said. “What we do is we try to reach common ground when we can.”

His plan would also include parent and caregiver tax credits, along with $750 million for public education. Evers reiterated his hope of being able to give money back to the people.

“It’s a good time to help mitigate against inflationary costs that we’re seeing all across the state, whether that’s at gas stations or grocery stores,” Evers said.

Evers also responded to the request Milwaukee acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson made earlier this week for some surplus funds to go to the city to help it fund violence prevention. Evers said Republicans are likely to block the request, though he said he’d like to be able to increase shared revenue funds.

“We’ve had great trouble with the Republicans getting shared revenue increased in the state,” Evers said. “That’s the money that those municipalities use to do their work, including fire and police protection, and for years, it’s been cut back.”

Evers said he agreed with Johnson that the state does have a role to play in providing money. Last year, Evers announced $45 million of the state’s federal stimulus funding would go toward public safety and crime victim support. That money is allocated at the governor’s discretion. Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention received $8 million.

Evers also discussed the state’s work around affordable housing.

“It’s a difficult nut to crack, but we feel that we’re making headway,” he said. “All these issues are interconnected … whether it’s affordable housing, whether it’s transportation, whether it’s transit or education, all those pieces need to fit into place, and we need to make as good a effort we can to make sure that we do connect those dots.”

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