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Senate GOP Leader claims total victory in Wisconsin budget battle

Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks before he signs the Republican-written state budget...
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks before he signs the Republican-written state budget that includes a $2 billion income tax cut at Cumberland Elementary School, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Whitefish Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)(Scott Bauer | AP)
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 12:54 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 1:12 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - “Governor Tony Evers deserves NO credit for signing our budget,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu proclaimed while declaring in no uncertain terms a GOP victory over Gov. Tony Evers in this year’s fight over the state budget. (emphasis his)

“He got boxed into a corner and rather than fight for his unpopular budget and risk a political knockout, he and his team threw in the towel and signed our responsible budget,” the Oostburg Republican continued in a statement filled with as nearly as many broadsides against the governor as praise for the budget itself.

Evers signed the budget Thursday morning during a news conference at an elementary school in Whitefish Bay. The governor celebrated a $2.3 billion amended tax cut as the one of the largest in state history and said he kept his campaign pledge to cut taxes for the middle class by 10 percent. “I made a promise when I ran for governor—I promised I would cut taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent. Today, I am keeping my word,” Evers continued.

Assembly Republicans, however, accusing the governor of wanting to raise taxes by a billion dollars in his original budget. LeMahieu echoed his counterparts from the other chamber and went on to describe the GOP’s initial budget as “the most conservative spending plan in a generation.”

Had Evers vetoed the entire bill, the move would have put $2.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding at risk. In his comments – and by holding his announcement at an elementary school – Evers tried to reinforce the importance of education for him in the budget process. Specifically lauding that this bill will provide two-thirds funding for schools for the first time in two decades, although he criticized Republican lawmakers for not providing more for education.

While he did deride the bill as falling short in many ways, Evers said he would sign it as a way to put people first as he “tr[ied] to do the right thing, find common ground, and make decisions on what was best for the state.”

LeMauieu rejected the governor’s statement outright, taunting Evers as “not a fighter” and “not a leader,” and adding, “he did not sign our conservative budget out of bipartisan motives. He is merely sensible enough to recognize a better budget when he sees one.”

While LeMahieu touted the bill as a GOP effort, Ledgeview Republican John Marco described it as a bipartisan effort “that had the support of Republicans and Democrats alike, including the Democratic Senate Minority Leader.”

Marco criticized Evers original budget as filled with “partisan pet projects,” but went on to describe the process afterwards as an example of divided government in which both sides come together to find compromise.

correction: The original version of this story indicated Gov. Evers used his line item veto to change the amount of the tax cut. The $2.37 billion income tax cut in the measure was not changed.

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