Business & Lobbying

Wisconsin GOP tries to hamstring new Dem governor’s powers

The top Republican leaders in Wisconsin’s General Assembly are considering limiting the powers of the state’s Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers after he beat Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) both said this week they are considering taking away some of the next governor’s powers to implement state law, and to appoint members of boards and commissions.

“Wisconsin chose a divided government which may result in a slower process,” Vos said in a statement Thursday. “The state constitution clearly delineates the powers between the branches of government. The legislature appropriates funds, writes laws and approves administrative rules. Our goal is to ensure our constitutional authority is reiterated and enforced.”

Fitzgerald told reporters Thursday the legislature is considering the fate of a number of state boards and commissions.

Evers said on the campaign trail he would eliminate the state Economic Development Corporation, the body that put together an a package of tax and cash incentives that wooed the Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin. Instead, Evers said he would bring back the state Commerce Department.

When Republicans recaptured both the General Assembly and the governorship, they delegated new powers to the incoming Gov. Walker that allow him to issue rules that give clarity to legislation the Senate and Assembly pass.

Those powers are now at risk.

In a tweet Thursday, Evers said Republicans were playing politics in the months before he takes office.

“This is a complete violation of the separation of powers in our system,” Evers said in a statement. “Wisconsin voted for a change from the years of naked partisanship and divide-and-conquer politics. That must end.”

Vos said his proposal was meant to take Evers’s offer of a bipartisan working relationship seriously.

“Governor-elect Evers made a generous offer to work together so he should not have a problem with the legislation that may be considered. The reforms are intended to keep both sides at the table to reach a consensus,” Vos said.

But Evers said the changes were only meant to preserve power for the Republicans who still hold a majority in both chambers of the legislature. Republicans picked up one seat in the state Senate, and guaranteed themselves a majority in the Assembly even with more than a dozen races yet to be finally decided.

“There is a lot of common ground we can find. But I will not tolerate desperate antics to cling to power and violate the checks and balances of Wisconsin’s government,” Evers said.

Evers, the superintendent of public instruction, beat Walker by 1.2 percentage points in Tuesday’s midterm election, or a margin of about 31,000 votes.

Walker has not said whether he would sign any legislation the Republican-led legislature sends to his desk. But at least one Republican legislator acknowledged that the move would look like sour grapes.

“The optics probably look bad,” state Sen. Luther Olsen (R) told The Associated Press.

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