In this update:

  • Welcome to the Team Adam Barr
  • Administration Updates
  • Legislative Updates
  • Election Updates
  • Fundraising Opportunities

Welcome to the team Adam Barr

Michael Best Strategies announced this week that Adam Barr has joined the Madison office as a Principal. Adam is a seasoned public policy veteran who has worked with local, Wisconsin and Federal governments, assisting clients from all industry sectors with a focus on healthcare and education.

Read more about Adam’s experience here:

Administration Updates

Evers releases capital budget

Governor Tony Evers proposed a $3.8 billion 2023-25 Capital Budget this week with half of the spending being financed by cash. According to the governor’s press release, financing $1.9 billion of capital improvements through cash instead of borrowing would save taxpayers nearly $1 billion in future debt service payments. “Our historic surplus means we have historic opportunity and responsibility—to invest in key projects that have long been neglected while still staying well within our means, keeping borrowing low, and saving taxpayers money in the long run, and that’s exactly what our Capital Budget does,” said Gov. Evers. Altogether, the governor is looking to fund capital projects in 28 of the state’s 72 counties.

Nearly $1.8 billion of the budget is designated for projects on UW System Campuses with the most expensive project being a $347.4 million project to replace a building for UW-Madison’s College of Engineering. The governor’s capital budget is also proposing $150 million for juvenile justice facilities across the state. Included in that cost is $32.6 million in additional funding for a planned type 1 facility in Milwaukee County and $83 million to construct a similar facility in Dane County.

The governor’s capital budget will need to be approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature. In the last capital budget crafted by Gov. Evers, the Legislature reduced the $2.4 billion proposal down to $1.5 billion. JFC Co-Chair Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) said the Legislature would likely take a similar approach this session. “The Governor’s Capital Budget recommendation is more of the same as we saw in his budget recommendation — massive spending and unrealistic growth,” said Rep. Born. “The Legislature’s Capital Budget will make important investments in our state’s infrastructure and ensure we’re in a strong position for the future.”

The governor’s proposed capital budget now goes to the State Building Commission for review and approval prior to being incorporated into the operating budget and forwarded to the Joint Finance Committee and full Legislature for amendment and approval. The full budget will then be returned to Gov. Evers where he can either sign the entire budget or make line-item vetoes.

Evers speaks at WCA luncheon

Governor Tony Evers spoke at a luncheon this week hosted by the Wisconsin Counties Association where he discussed several topics pertaining to the upcoming budget.

Relationship with Speaker Vos and Majority Leader LeMahieu

Gov. Evers said his relationship with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu has improved since the governor took office in 2019. “We’re polite. We don’t fight. We talk about areas that we may have common ground,” Gov. Evers said regarding his interaction with the GOP’s legislative leaders.

Shared Revenue

Gov. Evers said he has made progress on reaching a deal with the Legislature’s GOP leaders to boost state aid for local governments through shared revenue. The Governor’s budget proposes earmarking 20% of the state’s sales tax collections for shared revenue while also providing additional options for some local governments to increase local sales tax options. Regarding whether the Legislature will approve his plan, the governor said “They agree there will be more money for our counties and municipalities, absolutely. How that’s going to work, I don’t know. We’ll know more this week.”

Other Budget Items

Governor Evers said he expects additional funding for mental health, K-12 education, roads, and broadband expansion to be approved in the final budget. He also said he expects a tax cut to make it through the final budget. However, the governor indicated a flat tax would be a “poison pill” that would trigger a full veto of the budget. “I think we’re going to be all right,” said Gov. Evers. “I don’t think I’ll get everything I want, nor will they.”

Evers’ administration proposes reduction in state buildings

Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld released an update to the state’s Vision 2030 Plan that calls for state government to reduce its Madison building footprint by 27.8% through 2030. According to a press release from DOA, the plan would save taxpayers more than $541 million in deferred maintenance costs for facilities in Madison and Milwaukee. The plan calls for vacating the State Human Services Building, the General Executive Facility (GEF) 2, and the GEF 3 building, all located in Madison, and consolidating the current occupants with other Madison-based agencies.

The plan also envisions the construction of a new Milwaukee State Office Building and sale of the existing building. According to DOA, the move would eliminate the need for $95.7 million in renovations for the existing building. The Evers’ administration has previously proposed spending $163.6 million to build a new state office building in Milwaukee, but the GOP-controlled Legislature nixed that plan when it removed the funding from the governor’s 2021-23 capital budget.

Legislative Updates

GOP, Dem legislative leaders speak at WCA

This week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard and Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer spoke at the Wisconsin Counties Association’s annual legislative conference where they discussed a number of topics.


Rep. Vos: Claimed that Governor Evers’ budget was using “phony math.” He said there’s nowhere near enough revenue to fund the Governor’s’ proposals, even just on K-12 spending. He also tried to lower the expectations of local government groups looking for more state funds. “I think at the end of the day, we will try to prioritize the increases in local government spending,” he said. “But if I was sitting here and speaking to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, they’re going to want an increase in spending too. And if I were talking to the Wisconsin Towns Association, they would like more money as well.” He further argued that Governor Evers’ budget would put Wisconsin in a more than $1 billion structural deficit within two years, leaving no money for new programs.

Sen. Agard: Emphasized the need to increase shared revenue funding for local governments this cycle, arguing “we have cut to the bone,” and said many of her constituents have urged her to boost municipal and county government funding because current models are not sustainable.

Affordable Housing

Rep. Vos: Argued for local governments to pare back regulations he says have increased the size and amenities of new housing past what’s affordable and necessary for many Wisconsinites. “Absolutely everybody has got to have a sidewalk, you have to have a paved driveway,” the Speaker said, giving examples. “You have to mandate that you have to have a basement. We have to mandate, even some people now are saying you can’t have a gas stove. I mean, all these mandates are crazy. We have got to figure a way to hopefully reduce the cost of regulation.”

Sen. Agard: In response to Speaker Vos, Senator Agard said, “I agree, we need to do something about housing in the state of Wisconsin.”



Both parties said the state needs to think about how it will fund transportation in the future as electric vehicles and other fossil fuel alternatives undercut Wisconsin’s gas tax revenue.

Rep. Neubauer: The Assembly Minority Leader said, “I am one of those people who owns a hybrid, and there’s more of us every day. And we recognize that this will put a strain on funding if we continue to rely on the gas tax as we have historically.”


Rep. Vos: Discussed his tolling plan saying, “Imagine if in 2013 when we first started talking about tolling, if Wisconsin had already implemented it statewide,” he said. “It would mean that our transportation system is fully funded. We have more money for local roads than we would today.”

Sen. Agard: Wants transportation discussion to focus on how future generations will use transportation, since many younger people are taking longer to get their driver’s licenses and seek more public transit options. “And I think it’s really quite important that we – yes fund our local governments and make sure that you all have the ability to take care of the roads that are currently there – but that we also think about how it is that we want to help people get around that meets them where they’re at and thinks about where we want to be in a decade or in two or three decades,” she said.


Sen. LeMahieu: Argued that there is not much room for bipartisan agreement in the budget. “I might be a little pessimistic here, but – I mean everybody’s mentioning good things – we can’t just do a tax cut that’s a tax credit to some of the families of Wisconsin,” he said. “It has to be a tax cut for everybody.” He continued on to say, “If I was king of Wisconsin, and we could get one thing done, it would be a responsible budget like we did the last two cycles, that the governor would sign again. But after the budget that he put out there, it gives me pause that it might be hard to actually come to a solution.”

JFC Co-chairs speak at WisPolitics luncheon

This week, Joint Finance Committee Co-chairs Representative Mark Born and Senator Howard Marklein spoke at a WisPolitics luncheon and discussed several topics regarding the budget.

Shared Revenue

The co-chairs said there are opportunities for agreement with the governor, such as on shared revenue to help fund local governments. Rep. Born said that doesn’t mean they support what the governor proposed, but they agree it’s important to make progress on shared revenue.


On the Governor’s budget proposal that would allow certain municipalities to levy a higher sales tax, Rep. Born said, “That’s not going to be something we’re looking for. We’re going to be looking for innovation and for really how this money funds the future of what local governments need to provide. So we’re not interested in funding the same old systems with just new money. We want reforms. We want improvements that really fund the future of what are really essential services that local governments have to provide.” He also noted that municipalities can currently go to referendum to get more funding.

Milwaukee Brewers Stadium

On the Governor’s budget proposal to to provide one-time state funds for ongoing improvements at the Brewers stadium in exchange for the team signing a deal to stay in Milwaukee through December 2043, Rep. Born said, “The governor’s lack of leadership is, ‘I’m going to throw a bunch of money in this budget and just kind of see what kind of mess I can create by creating this stir with no discussion, momentum, explanation, information and how this impacts the state, the community,’ — just a complete void of leadership.” He further stated that the discussion over Evers’ proposal would likely carry on for several months as the Legislature will try to gather more information about whether Gov. Evers’ plan or another proposal is the way to go. “I think a lot of people in Wisconsin, certainly southeastern Wisconsin, would like to see the Brewers stay here, you know, so that’s certainly a place to start, but we’ve got to make sure the plan makes sense for taxpayers,” Rep. Born said.

Senator Marklein said that Republicans haven’t talked about the Brewers proposal in caucus yet, and he hasn’t decided where he stands. “My district is a long ways away from Milwaukee, and the bulk of the feedback I’m hearing on that is negative,” Sen. Marklein said. “So I think that’s probably the context of millionaire, you know, players, you know, billionaire owners, and it’s just hard to, you know, convince a farmer in Fennimore that this is going to be a great investment.”


Sen. Marklein said that the co-chairs’ relationship with Governor Evers has remained the same compared to the past. He said he will represent his district, and increasing spending and adding hundreds of new state employees isn’t something his constituents support. He stated, “There’s some things I’m sure, you know, issues that we could agree on. But, you know, philosophically in the big picture, the amount of spending, again, and the stuff that he’s got in the budget, we’re just, I think we’re a long ways apart.”

Rep. Born criticized the Governor for his State of the State and Budget Addresses, saying the remarks reflected “hard left partisan rhetoric.” “If you look at his budget, it’s the same bad ideas, bad policy, reckless spending, tax increases, that he sent out the last few budgets. It just keeps getting bigger because of the surplus,” the Representative said. He further noted that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu have had a few meetings with the governor and will meet again soon, so Gov. Evers might be ready to talk about “tough issues.” “But so far we’ve seen nothing. It’s all the same,” Rep. Born said.

Election Updates

Protasiewicz, Kelly speak at WCA

This week, liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz and conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly made an appearance at the Wisconsin Counties Association’s annual legislative conference where they discussed a number of topics.

Case recusal

Protasiewicz: Will recuse herself from any case involving the state Democratic Party due to their heavy involvement in her campaign. She has called for rules to require recusal in certain cases.


Kelly: Will decide if he will recuse himself on a case-by-case basis but said he’d decline to hear any case that touched on a conversation he had about presenting a GOP slate of presidential electors to Congress in 2020. He opposes formerly proposed rules to require recusal in certain cases.


Protasiewicz: Said that she has not promised abortion rights groups on how she’d rule in such a case, despite receiving significant funding from some groups. She also said that former Justice Kelly worked for the “extreme group” that’s fighting to keep the state’s 1849 abortion ban in.


Kelly: In regards to Judge Protasiewicz’s claim, he told reporters, “Frankly, I don’t even recall.”




Protasiewicz: Said that the choice in this race is between electing her to bring common sense and fairness to the court vs. electing her rival to “continue partisanship and extremist.” She also stated that while Justice Kelly was on the court before, he regularly took the side of special interests and followed his own partisan beliefs, not the rule of law.

Kelly: Questioned whether Judge Protasiewicz could “faithfully serve on the Supreme Court consistent with the Constitution and its values,” and said that she will put her “thumb on the scales of justice.” He also told county officials the choice was about whether the court remains subordinate to the will of the people or becomes a super-legislature of four lawyers in a Madison courtroom deciding what the law is without referring to the people, the Legislature or the Constitution. Justice Kelly stated, “I think it should be the former, without question, because that’s the only way that we can be true to the people of Wisconsin and their Constitution.”

DPW, RPW chairmen on “Upfront”

The chairmen of the state’s political parties were interviewed by WISN’s “UpFront” this week. Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Ben Wikler and Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Brian Schimming agreed the race for state Supreme Court has gained national importance and that significant resources would continue to be used by the political parties to support their preferred candidate. “This has turned into kind of a national race, literally talking about it all over the country,” Mr. Schimming said. “I suspect both sides will see a fair amount of funding come in from around the country because it’s not just about one Supreme Court seat. It’s about the majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and it will be Janet Protasiewicz’s attempt to turn back 25 years of reform in this state, including on school choice, Act 10, concealed carry, voter ID.”

Mr. Wikler acknowledged DPW’s endorsement of Judge Protasiewicz and promised to mobilize the party to ensure the liberal Milwaukee County judge wins. “The cow has left the barn on this, I’m afraid,” Mr. Wikler said referring to the party’s involvement in the non-partisan race. “We cannot unilaterally disarm. In this race, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is organizing in every square inch of Wisconsin, in rural areas, suburbs and cities alike across gender, ethnicity, race.”

Mr. Schimming also noted that Republicans were united following the primary race between the two conservative candidates. “Jennifer Dorow has been terrific this week in endorsing Dan Kelly immediately at her election night party and several times since.” The GOP chair added that his party’s large dollar donors are ready to spend in support of Justice Kelly and that the grassroots is motivated to help him get elected.

Record breaking SCOWIS spending

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race has broken the national record for spending on a judicial race, with 5 weeks still left until election day. As of now, $18 million has been spent on the race, with $8.8 million of that coming post-primary. The previous record was from a 2004 Illinois Supreme Court race at $15 million.

Fair Courts America releases ad

Fair Courts America has released its first post-primary ad in the state Supreme Court race in support of former Justice Dan Kelly. The ad is titled “Ridiculous” and centers around a sentence that Judge Janet Protasiewicz gave a child rapist. The case involved a man named Anton Veasley who abducted and raped a 15-year old girl. The ad claims Judge Protaasiewicz could have sentenced him to 20 years in prison, but instead gave Veasley no jail time. Fair Courts America said it’s spending $975,000 on the buy through March 6. It will air on broadcast and cable in the Milwaukee, Green Bay, La Crosse, Wausau and Madison markets.

Fundraising Opportunities

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

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