In this update:
- A Look at the Week Ahead
- State of the State Recap
- Administration Updates
- Legislative Updates
- Election Updates
- Fundraising Opportunities
A Look at the Week Ahead
Committees of Note
Thursday, February 2
Assembly Rural Development
9:00 am, 300-NE
- This meeting is for invited speakers only. There will be no opportunity for public testimony.
- Steven Deller, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
- “The Status of Wisconsin’s Rural Economy”
State of the State Recap
Michael Best Strategies 2023 State of the State Alert
In his fifth State of the State address, Gov. Tony Evers (D-Plymouth) called for $1.3 billion in new spending on top priorities including education, mental health, shared revenue, PFAS mitigation, workforce support, and economic development. Gov. Evers declared 2023 the “Year of Mental Health” and proposed allocating an additional $500 million on mental health initiatives. He also proposed sending up to 20% of the state’s sales tax revenue back to local communities for shared revenue, which could equate to a nearly $500 million increase in new resources for local governments.
For a full breakdown of the governor’s 2023 State of the State Address, as well as reaction from Republican and Democratic legislative leadership, please read Michael Best Strategies 2023 State of the State Alert.
Watch the State of the State Address: click here
Read the transcript: click here
Evers appointees now a majority on NRB
The state’s Natural Resources Board convened this week and for the first time since taking office in 2019, Governor Tony Evers’ (D-Plymouth) appointees constituted a majority of the policy-making board. The seven member board now has five Evers appointees among its ranks. The first action taken by the new board was to unanimously elect Bill Smith as its new chair, replacing former Governor Scott Walker-appointee Greg Kazmierski. The board also unanimously approved a rule to establish new groundwater standards for E. coli, as well as changes to the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program designed to speed up the replacement of lead service laterals and make the application process easier for communities.
Making his first appearance at an NRB meeting, DNR Secretary Adam Payne said addressing water contamination and protecting natural resources shouldn’t be a partisan issue. “I think every single person in this state should expect to be able to turn on the faucet or go to their water and have clean and safe water,” Sec. Payne said. The newly appointed DNR secretary also voiced his support for Gov. Evers’ proposal to allocate $100 million to address PFAS contamination saying “it’s so refreshing to have a governor who’s making [water quality] a key priority as well as hearing legislators talk about how we need to do more.”
LFB projects $7.1 billion surplus to end fiscal year
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a new report this week in which it projects the state will end the current fiscal year with a $7.1 billion surplus, $524 million more than what Governor Tony Evers’ (D-Plymouth) administration expected two months ago. The LFB attributes the projected increase to three factors including a higher balance in the state’s Medicaid fund due to an extension of enhanced matching rates from the federal government. The second factor is a $202.4 million appropriation set aside by the legislature to fund the exemption of the personal property tax that was never used because the proposal wasn’t signed into law. Finally, general fund tax revenues for the current fiscal year are estimated to be $60.7 million higher than originally anticipated. The report also noted that the state would bring in $154.9 million less in revenue during the 2023-25 biennium than projected by Gov. Evers’ administration. That would still leave the state with $1.2 billion in revenue growth over the biennium.
Responding the recent LFB report, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) put out a press release touting conservative budgeting for the state’s fiscal situation and urging the governor to keep spending in check. “The updated projections underscore the importance of responsible Republican budgeting,” Rep. Born said. “Our state continues to be in a strong financial position because of conservative fiscal management, despite these projections showing signs of economic uncertainty ahead. It is more important than ever to make sure we continue smart budgeting to ensure we can fund our priorities now and in the future.” Sen. Marklein noted that “one-time money that has been pumped into our state by the federal government” has had a significant impact on the surplus. The JFC’s senate co-chair promised to “fund our core priorities and obligations while protecting Wisconsin’s checkbook.”
Surplus could be used to address PFAS contamination
During a townhall-style meeting in Stella, Wisconsin, two GOP lawmakers indicated part of the state’s historic $7 billion budget surplus could be used to mitigate PFAS contamination in wells across the state. Senator Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) told constituents they were hopeful a bipartisan deal could be reached in the legislature to commit surplus funds to replenish a program aimed at helping low- and middle-class homeowners with replacing contaminated wells or treating the water from their current well. At the townhall meeting, Sen. Felzkowski, a member of the powerful budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), said PFAS contamination is “not a partisan issue,” and that the legislature “is looking at how much dollars do we feel we need to set aside to help families with clean drinking water.” Rep. Swearingen added that “If we need to do some sort of special legislation regarding PFAS or add to the (well compensation) fund, I think that’s a definite possibility.”
Mitigating the impact of PFAS contamination has increasingly become a topic of interest in state politics. During his 2023 State of the State Address this week, Governor Tony Evers (D-Plymouth) proposed an $100 million appropriation and a three-pronged approach to confront PFAS including: (1) increased testing, sampling, and monitoring of PFAS contaminants; (2) making more resources available to on-the-ground partners to respond to PFAS contamination when it happens; and (3) increasing awareness about the dangers of PFAS.
Dem lawmakers propose advisory referendum on abortion
Representative Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Senator Kelda Roys (D-Madison) have introduced a resolution to include a referendum on the April ballot asking voters whether the state’s 1849 abortion ban should be repealed. Just last week, Republicans rejected substitute amendments that Democrats introduced to put the question to voters instead of an advisory referendum on work search requirements. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) have not yet commented on the introduced resolution.
Abortion has been a key issue in both this past election cycle and the upcoming state Supreme Court election. Republicans have repeatedly rebuffed efforts by Democrats to repeal the abortion ban, including gaveling in and out of special sessions called by Governor Tony Evers (D-Plymouth). Gov. Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul have filed a lawsuit arguing the abortion ban is outdated and can’t be enforced. Speaker Vos has said he is open to including abortion exceptions in cases of rape and incest, but Republicans have yet to introduce a bill to do so. The current law only includes an exception for the life of the mother. Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison) argued Republicans are “scared” to leave the question up to voters because they know their views on abortion don’t reflect where Wisconsinites stand on the issue.
Protasiewicz on “Upfront”
This past week Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz sat down for a 1-on-1 with “UpFront” where she addressed her prior claims regarding the partisanship of the Supreme Court Candidates, as well as her own. “I’m not a partisan,” Protasiewicz told “UpFront.” “When I call someone an extreme activist, I mean it, and I don’t do that lightly.” Judge Protasiewicz defended her criticism of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and calling the state’s legislative maps “rigged” during a recent WisPolitics forum by saying, “Sure, I could sit at a forum and say the exact same thing that my opponents say, ‘Sure, I’m going to uphold the law, I’m going to follow the constitution, but why not let the electorate know? Don’t they deserve to know what my values are?” When asked whether her values would affect her decisions, she said, “Everybody’s human, right? So you have values you bring with you. You have to set aside your values, certainly, to a certain extent when you’re handling cases. But you look at the facts and circumstances.”
Protasiewicz releases TV ads
Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s team last week announced a $700,000 statewide TV buy over the final three weeks of the primary. They recently advanced that timeline and released her first two ads. Both are heavily focused on the topic of abortion, with one that features her saying, “I’ll protect public safety. I believe in a woman’s freedom to make her own decision on abortion. It’s time for a change.” The second ad features a series of women expressing support for Judge Protasiewicz, with one woman saying, “[Judge Protasiewicz] believes in our freedom to make our own decisions when it comes to abortion.”
First Ad Second Ad
Minocqua Brewing Company PAC supports Protasiewicz with billboards
According to recent independent expenditure filings, Minocqua Brewing Company PAC spent $11,470 on billboards supporting Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz. Kirk Bangstad, the owner of Minoqua Brewing Company, told WisPolitics his PAC purchased billboards in Middleton, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Stevens Point and Eau Claire. Judge Protasiewicz will face off against Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, and Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow in the February 21 Spring Primary Election. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 4 Spring General Election.
See the PAC’s Report of Independent Expenditures:
Fair Courts America supports Kelly with new radio ad
Fair Courts America, a group “dedicated to preserving the Founders’ intent that the judicial branch of government renders equal justice under the law,” has launched a $240k radio ad campaign for former Justice Dan Kelly’s Supreme Court campaign. The 60-second ad notes Justice Kelly’s prior experience and the importance of this election in regard to the court’s composition. Fair Courts America spokesperson Dan Curry said “This is the first stage of our public campaign. We are planning a seven-figure voter education program prior to the February election.”
Cook Political Report and “Crystal Ball” say state’s 2024 senate race leans Dem
In their first ratings of the 2024 cycle, both Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia’s “Crystal Ball” list Wisconsin among the U.S. Senate races that lean Democrat. Cook also named Montana, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania in their lean Dem category. Furthermore, they noted three Dem-held seats as toss-ups: Arizona, Ohio, and West Virginia. In the “Crystal Ball” ratings, Wisconsin is one of four lean Dem seats, along with Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. They named West Virginia as lean Republican while Arizona, Montana, and Ohio are toss-ups.
See Cook ratings (subscription required) See the Crystal Ball ratings
A list of all upcoming fundraiser opportunities can be found by clicking the button below. For any questions or more information, please do not hesitate to contact your Michael Best Strategies contact.
Wisconsin Campaign Fundraisers