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Capitol Notes: Evers' First Cabinet Picks; GOP Leader's Comments on Budget

Andy Manis/Getty Images
The Wisconsin Capitol in December 2018.

Often, political news slows as the holidays approach. But that hasn't been the case this year. Democratic Governor-Elect Tony Evers has been busy announcing his first cabinet picks. Republican legislative leaders have been busy responding to the announcements. In this week's Capitol Notes, JR Ross of talks about the latest developments.

Ross points out that GOP leaders immediately complained about Evers' first four cabinet choices. All are from Milwaukee. But Evers ended last week naming several who are from other places. Ross says with additional slots to be filled, it's too early to get a clear look at what Evers' team will look like.

Ross adds that both Evers and his appointment to lead the Department of Transportation, Craig Thompson, have not been talking about raising taxes to pay for roads. Some people who oppose tax hikes are concerned about Thompson joining Evers' cabinet, because he's favored increasing funding for roads in the past.

If legislators don't support Evers' cabinet picks, they have the power to reject them. However, Ross says so far no one is raising "big red flags" about Evers' choices.

Another big, recent political story sprouted from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's comments about the state budget. The Republican said the Legislature will not consider the biennial budget that Evers will introduce in February. Instead, he suggested lawmakers will work off the most recent budget.

Ross says he's never seen such an action taken in the nearly 19 years that he's covered the Capitol. He says it's possible Republicans will consider portions of Evers' spending plan, such as budget requests from some of the smaller agencies, while crafting their own budget in larger areas. Ross points out that in any case, Evers maintains a great deal of control. He could veto the budget lawmakers approve. Or he could use his veto pen to rework portions of the spending plan. Wisconsin governors are known as having the "most powerful veto pen in the country," which allows them to make numerous changes to budgets.

Ann-Elise Henzl became News Director in September 2017.