Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers' budget proposal keeps his promise to fund public safety


Republicans had falsely accused Evers of 'coddling criminals.'

Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ran for reelection on a promise to invest millions more in local government in general and in public safety in particular. His latest budget proposal keeps that promise.

In his State of the State address on Jan. 24, according to prepared remarks posted online by his office, Evers told the Republican-controlled Legislature that he hopes that public safety funding could be an area for bipartisan "common ground":

I'm announcing tonight that I want to work together on a budget provision that will send a total of up to 20 percent of the state's sales tax revenue back to our local communities for shared revenue. This commitment will ensure our communities will see growth in shared revenue in the future after years of state investment not keeping up with our communities' needs. And it means more than half a billion dollars more per year in new resources to invest in key priorities like EMS, fire, and law enforcement services, transportation, local health and human services, and other challenges facing our communities.

With a state sales tax currently set at 5%, that would mean a penny for localities for every dollar spent in the state.

On Feb. 15, Evers delivered his 2023-25 Biennial Budget Message, laying out proposals for what the Legislature should fund over the next two years.

According to his official website, he noted that localities "have been asked to do more with less" in recent years and that he hoped to remedy that now.

"Last month, I pledged my support for a budget provision to send 20 percent of the state's sales tax revenue back to our local communities for shared revenue. And I'm excited to share that our budget includes that proposal, providing more than half a billion dollars more per year in new resources to invest in key priorities like public safety," he said. "We have to get this done, folks."

The proposed budget goes even further than Evers' campaign proposal to provide a 4% increase in funding for localities, totalling at least $91 million over two years, at least $10 million of which would be used to fund local police, fire, and emergency services.

"Time and again, I've worked to increase funding for shared revenue to help local governments fund important services, including our local police officers, firefighters, and EMS providers, and time and again, the Republicans in the Legislature have refused," he noted in October 2022, according to the Associated Press.

WisPolitics reported at the time that Anna Kelly, a spokesperson for the campaign of Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels, accused Evers of attempting to "rewrite his abysmal public safety record of coddling criminals, vilifying law enforcement, and releasing brutal murderers and child rapists back on the streets. Evers doesn't care about public safety. He cares about getting re-elected."

The Republican Governors Association ran ads in the 2022 campaign that falsely claimed Evers "gave counties the green light to defund Wisconsin's police departments," referring to a Evers' veto of a bill that would have slashed state aid for any locality that reduced its spending on police or other emergency services. In a fact-check, PolitiFact noted that Evers opposed cutting police funding and used $100 million in pandemic relief to help local law enforcement.

During his first campaign for governor, in 2018, Evers promised to boost investments in Wisconsin's infrastructure and economy. With support from laws signed by President Joe Biden, the state has received more than $4 billion in manufacturing-related investments over the past two years, including $2.9 billion for infrastructure construction projects.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.