WALTERS: Ten Evers priorities the GOP will kill

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Prediction: Republican legislators will have built and passed their own 2019-21 state budget in two months, meeting a July 1 deadline.

Prediction: These 10 priorities of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers won't be in that GOP budget.

*No. 1: Republicans won't expand Medicaid, paid for largely with federal funds, in a way Evers insists would add 82,000 lower-income residents

What Evers said in his Feb. 28 budget address:

"We need to expand Medicaid . 82,000 more Wisconsinites will have access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage.

"And because we're accepting these federal dollars, we have the opportunity to invest in programs that improve healthcare access and affordability across our state."

Why Republicans won't go there: Everyone at or below federal poverty guidelines is already on Medicaid, and the expansion would expand "welfare."

However, to continue the current Medicaid program with no additional federal dollars, Republicans must find an additional $350 million in state tax dollars.

*No 2: Evers asked legislators to "decriminalize marijuana possession for 25 grams or less," saying it would cut prison and criminal-justice system costs.

What Republicans say: There may - just may - be a way to legalize medical marijuana, but no way are we going to start Wisconsin down the "slippery slope" of legalizing recreational marijuana.

*No. 3: Middle-income tax cut paid for by ending a tax break claimed by owners of manufacturing companies.

"We're going to cut taxes by 10% for everyone making up to $100,000 and families making up to $150,000," Evers said. "We're going to fund tax relief for hard-working families by capping a corporate tax credit, 80% of which goes to filers making more than $1 million a year."

What Republicans say: That tax break has created jobs and is one reason Wisconsin's economy is on "roll." The state's unemployment rate is a record 2.9%.

*No 4: Evers wants to boost spending on K-12 public schools by $1.5 billion by mid-2021, including $600 million more for special education.

"We've failed to fund programs for our kids with special needs," Evers said. "Our budget includes an unprecedented $600 million increase in special education funding. We shouldn't have to squeeze resources to make sure every kid can be successful."

But Republican Sen. Luther Olsen, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, speaks for his party on this issue: "We can't afford Gov. Evers' education budget."

*No. 5: Evers wants "a nonpartisan redistricting commission," which would draw legislative district lines after the 2020 federal census. "Nonpartisan redistricting is only part of the democratic process and participation."

What Republicans say: The state Constitution requires the Legislature - controlled by Republicans since 2011 - to draw new district boundaries. The current system works just fine, thank you.

*No. 6: "We're also going to direct the Elections Commission and the Department of Transportation to work together on implementing automatic voter registration," Evers declared.

But Republicans have spent years passing, and getting sued over, new requirements to vote - including producing a photo ID and limits on absentee voting, They won't automatically add to the voting roll everyone issued a Wisconsin driver's license.

*No. 7: In-state tuition for children of immigrants.

Evers said: "Regardless of whether a kid was born in this country, if they went to a Wisconsin high school and have lived here for three years, they shouldn't have to pay more for tuition."

But this would treat the children of immigrants better than Wisconsin's military veterans, said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. No way.

*No. 8: "Undocumented folks will be eligible to receive driver's licenses and ID cards," the governor said. "This makes our roads and our communities safer, and helps strengthen our economy and Wisconsin families."

As the nation debates immigration policies, Wisconsin Republicans aren't ready to go there.

*No. 9: Raise the $7.25 minimum wage to $8.25 per hour and, in steps, to $10.50 by 2023. Tie that wage to inflation and have a task force consider how it could eventually be $15.

But Republicans like Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Shannon Zimmerman noted that they learned the value of hard work as youths while earning the minimum wage or less, so it's a life-lessons experience.

*No. 10: Evers submitted a two-year budget spending $83.7 billion - 8% more than the current budget - that would also wipe out a surplus.

Republicans: That's irresponsible. We will spend much less.

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

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