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Dear Governor, Play Hardball With Do-Nothing Legislature

December 9, 2020

In a letter to Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, the independent social justice group Our Wisconsin Revolution urged the Evers administration to eliminate funding for Wisconsin’s private school voucher program in the proposed 2021-23 state budget that will be presented to the legislature early next year as a way to gain leverage in budget negotiations in hopes of overcoming partisan gridlock.

The letter from the group’s co-chairs and executive director follows up on a November 30 message urging the administration to act boldly instead of playing it safe with its budget proposal and recommending six ways to forcefully tackle four emergencies facing Wisconsin—economic inequality, health insecurity, social injustice and environmental insanity.

Any hope the Democratic administration has to broker agreement on the budget across party lines hinges on hard-line bargaining with the legislature’s ruling Republicans that includes a willingness to eliminate funding for programs they favor like private school subsidies, the letter asserts. It goes on to say that when majority Republicans seek to restore funding for the program in the budget bill they pass, the governor needs to make it clear he is prepared to use his partial veto authority to eliminate the funding again, noting that GOP lawmakers do not have the supermajorities needed to override the governor’s vetoes.

“We don’t have to tell you how much legislative Republicans love the voucher program. You have it in your power to dismantle it. In order to save taxpayer-subsidized private schooling, they will have no choice but to support your own budget initiatives. If they refuse to do so, one of their signature programs will go away,” the letter to Evers and Barnes says. “Legislative Republicans have shown little to no interest in working with you and have blocked your actions at every turn. We urge you to play hardball with them.”