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Evers open to vetoing entire GOP-written budget if necessary

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov.-elect Tony Evers said in a interview on Wednesday with The Associated Press that he isn’t ruling out vetoing the entire state budget if Republicans completely ignore his proposals and decide to write their two-year spending plan.

Evers said again that he wants to work with the Republicans who control the Legislature. But when he was asked if he would veto a GOP-written budget that disregards his plans, Evers said that “anything’s possible.”

“We have to find some common ground ,” Evers said. “People in Wisconsin during the campaign made it clear that they were sick of partisanship. They want people to actually accomplish things instead of fight. And I’m not sure that that is consistent with the Republicans’ plan to have their own budget.”

Evers replaces Gov. Scott Walker on Monday. Evers is required to submit a two-year state budget early this year. His budget plan is likely to include proposals Republican lawmakers oppose, including a promised income-tax cut for the middle class, a policy Evers said he would pay for by scaling back a manufacturing-and-agriculture tax credit.

The Legislature generally spends months dissecting a governor’s budget plan, but Republicans could start from scratch and ignore Evers’ proposal. The new budget year begins in July; state government won’t shut down if that deadline is missed.

In one of his last acts as governor, Walker last month signed into law three bills that were passed by Republicans in a lame-duck session and are meant to weaken the powers of Evers and the incoming Attorney General, Josh Kaul.

Responding to critics, Walker has pointed out that Evers’ veto authority — as defined in the state constitution — remains powerful and unchanged. Evers, like Walker, can partially veto spending items in the budget. That means he could sign into law some parts of the budget and reject others.

Evers said Wednesday that he also wouldn’t be shy about vetoing non-budget bills.

The near certainty the Evers will use vetoes is likely to distinguish his administration from Walker’s. Walker worked closely with the Republican Legislature and vetoed only one bill outright during his first term. But Walker’s predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, vetoed 101 bills in his first term between 2003 and 2007, when Republicans controlled the Legislature.

Any veto Evers hands down is likely to stick. The Wisconsin Legislature has not overridden a governor’s veto since 1985. And although Republicans will maintain their majorities in the Senate and Assembly, they will not have enough votes to override a veto without Democratic support.

Evers said on Wednesday he intends to follow through on campaign promises that are opposed by Republicans, including his tax plan. Republicans have said they’re open to cutting income taxes, but they don’t want to do it by ending tax breaks for corporations .

Evers is also considering raising the gas tax and other fees to pay for transportation needs, a proposal that hit a road block in the Senate last session, although Assembly Republicans were open to the idea then.

Evers said he will also proceed with plans to cut the adult prison population in half, but specifics were still being worked out.

“I don’t think it’s going to be solved in this first budget,” he said, adding that he remains opposed to paying for opening a new prison to ease overcrowding.

In another break with Walker, Evers said he would be open to pardoning people if they had been rehabilitated and demonstrated they deserve the reprieve. Walker never pardoned anyone during his eight years as governor.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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