Evers, Republicans tie in game's first innings

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DEMOCRAT Tony Evers has been governor for almost three months. If they were the first innings of a baseball game, the score may be 3-3 between Evers and Republicans who control the Legislature.

Republicans will be at bat for the next three months, however. They plan to draft and adopt a state budget alternative that looks almost nothing like the spending plan Evers gave them on Feb. 28.

By July 1, Republicans may have run up the score and put a 2019-21 budget on the Democratic governor's desk he will have to veto.

That Evers grand slam would even the budget game for the final innings, which could be played into the late summer or fall.

FOR his part, Evers was able to act to withdraw Wisconsin from the federal lawsuit filed to kill the Affordable Care Act. A Texas judge struck down the ACA, but an appeal is now pending before a U.S. Court of Appeals.

One more reason why that case is important: If the ACA is struck down, there would be no additional federal cash for Wisconsin to draw on to expand Medicaid - a top Evers priority.

Evers directed Democratic Atty. Gen. Josh Kaul to get Wisconsin out of the ACA lawsuit minutes after a Dane County judge struck down "lame duck" laws and appointments approved by the Legislature and outgoing GOP Gov. Scott Walker in December.

One of those "lame duck" laws said Wisconsin could not pull out of the ACA lawsuit without permission from legislative leaders - permission that was never going to be given.

THE ruling that - for now - invalidated "lame duck" laws was the first Evers touch of home plate against the GOP. But umpires - Court of Appeals judges - stopped play for the legal equivalent of video review last week, with no final decision likely for weeks.

Acting to yank Wisconsin out of the ACA lawsuit was Team Evers second run.

The Democrat's third score was first rescinding 82 Walker appointments the state Senate rushed to confirm in December - something else he did immediately after the ruling voiding "lame duck" session actions.

Those appointments ranged from making state government veteran Ellen Nowak the critical third vote on the utility-regulating Public Service Commission to less important boards like the one that certifies dietitians.

Thursday, Evers reappointed many of the 82, but his first move to cancel them all sent Republicans this message: Team Democrats have a new manager.

BUT Republicans also put up three runs in the first innings.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Federalist Society that GOP legislators will discard the Evers budget, which would increase spending by 10% over two years and drain the surplus, and substitute their own.

Vos included this brushback-pitch threat:

"I believe the Senate and Assembly will craft our own budget - starting at [current spending levels] or less.

"If, for some reason, [Evers] believes he's going to veto the entire budget because it doesn't spend enough, the budget he will get - number two - will spend less than the first one."

VOS and Senate Majority Republican Scott Fitzgerald pushed across their second run when they got GOP Building Commission members, who had tentatively endorsed a $2.5-billion plan, to reverse themselves and block that proposal.

Evers wants to add prison beds, expand a Madison mental health treatment center for juveniles, build a new Milwaukee state office building and new Capitol Square historical museum, and repair and upgrade dozens of UW System campus buildings.

But Republicans scored with the new Building Commission deadlock.

"Republicans on the Commission voted to support this Capital budget a day ago - they were for it before they were against it," Evers lamented.

No, Vos and Fitzgerald said, state government simply can't afford to borrow $2.5 billion - three times what Walker's last budget borrowed to build and repair buildings.

Finally, Republicans scored by not saying when - or if - they will vote to confirm Evers roster of cabinet secretaries. Cabinet secretaries are the everyday players in Evers lineup. They can play until - and unless - the GOP Senate ejects them by refusing to confirm them.

THE winner?

Big calls made by the judicial umpires - a U.S. Supreme Court ACA ruling, for example, or a state Supreme Court ruling on "lame duck" laws - may play a role.

And, which team will have a Josh Hader?

Steven Walters is a senior producer with the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at stevenscotwalters@gmail.com

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