Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is now touring the state, highlighting the $83 billion state budget proposal he formally unveiled Thursday night. The tour comes as state Republicans continue to heavily criticize the plan from the Democratic governor.
One of Evers' stops on Friday was at a public school in Sturtevant, Schulte Elementary. There, he read to students and met with the news media.
The first question from reporters was whether his proposal to raise the state gas tax by eight cents per gallon violates a campaign pledge last fall, not to raise taxes.
"We've been able to moderate [a tax hike] as much as possible. But at the end of the day, what we do know is, people of the state have asked for some really important things, and frankly, some of them cost money. Schools is one them, and making sure we have good drinking water. We have things that need to be addressed," Evers says.
Evers would also scale back a tax credit for manufacturers.
The governor is proposing to offset the gas tax hike by eliminating a minimum markup law for fuel sales. Evers says getting rid of the Unfair Sales Act would lower gasoline prices about 14 cents per gallon, before the higher tax would be applied.
"Our roads are in tough shape, and if we want to continue to have economic development, we need good roads and good transportation," Evers emphasizes.
Evers also defends a freeway construction proposal that would complete the north end of the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee County, finish the current Interstate-94 construction project in Racine and Kenosha Counties, as well as step up planning for possible widening of Interstate-43 in Northern Milwaukee County and part of Ozaukee County.
On other topics, Evers touted language that would allow undocumented residents to obtain state identification cards and qualify for drivers' permits. He also defends a plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Evers was also asked about Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) shaking his head, while sitting behind Evers during the Thursday night budget address.
"Really?" Evers jokes, at first feigning ignorance of Vos' reaction, then acknowledging other people also told him Vos was "moaning and groaning."
Evers says it was "kind of theatrics."
But adds, "At the end of the day, I have a veto pen, and [Republicans] have the [legislative] majority, and we're going to have compromises and that's what it's all about."
Just maybe not by the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, Evers acknowledges.
On Friday morning, the Republican Party of Wisconsin issued a press release saying Evers' proposed budget "jeopardizes Wisconsin's future."