Much Ado About Nothing

Governor Evers delivered his 2023 budget address with pomp and pageantry…that ultimately means nothing since Republicans will just ignore his proposal and pass their own (far more realistic) budget.



Feb. 16, 2023
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell


Between drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, half a billion dollars for make-work projects, and unlimited abortions for all, Governor Evers’ budget address had everything—except, of course, Robin Vos pulling a Nancy Pelosi and ripping the proposal up the second it reached his hands.

Fear not, though, that’s coming.  For the third time in as many budget cycles, Republicans in the Legislature are almost certain to jettison Evers’ budget and craft one of their own.  Why wouldn’t they?  Evers’ proposal is once again a fanciful mishmash of unprecedented welfare expansion and radical leftist social policy.

If Vos doesn’t rip it up, he can at least use it to dry the tears he’ll shed laughing at it.

Evers announced $3.1 billion in new spending with dizzying speed and alarming nonchalance. Half a billion here, $300 million there; by the time he got to the $22 million he’s pledging for government-sponsored day care, it felt like a bargain.

Some of the biggest-ticket items in Evers’ latest spending binge include $1.09 billion for broadband expansion and high-speed internet, $500 million for “programs designed to support local and regionally-based projects” (whatever that means), $380 million to pay down state debt, $240 million for universal family medical leave, and $200 million to renovate and restore low-income residential properties.

Notably, the $3.1 billion total reflects the only dollar amounts that Evers announced Wednesday night.  It does not include his vague-but-obviously-pricey promises to make “the largest increase in K-12 schools and education [spending] in state history,” give “20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue back to our local communities for shared revenue,” and provide “$1.2 billion in tax relief” that will invariably turn out to be political patronage.

Evers also did not dare reveal his most controversial proposals in his address.  On Tuesday, he announced plans to give the Milwaukee Brewers $290 million in state funds for repair and maintenance projects at American Family Field. 

A day earlier, he revealed that he would include universal voter registration for all licensed drivers who are eligible to vote.  In what must have been a total coincidence that is in no way designed to make it easier for ineligible voters on the rolls, he also announced plans to allow illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. 

These two poison pills the year before a presidential election ensure that Republicans have no choice but to largely toss Evers’ budget, but his inclusion of Brewers stadium funding (without ever consulting with legislative leaders about it) is something of a dare for Republicans to do so.

The Brewers are obviously very popular in Wisconsin, and Evers’ very public boast that his budget’s investment will keep them in Milwaukee for another two decades is a way for him to shield his far more controversial—and far larger—spending off of the chopping block.

“Republicans want the Brewers to leave!” will be almost as common a refrain as “Republicans don’t want to fund our schools!” from the low-IQ set, but their incessant bleating didn’t sway the GOP the last two budget cycles and there is little reason to believe it will work this year, either.

Evers gave a decent enough speech, but nearly all his proposals are once again already dead.  Vos might not have torn up his budget proposal in front of him Wednesday night, but Republicans will once they begin the real work on the budget over the next few weeks.