Gov.-elect Tony Evers on Thursday continued to rail against lame-duck Republicans for voting to weaken his powers, but added that he still hopes to work with them upon taking office in January.
“As I’ve said many times before, the entire package is a hot mess. The people of Wisconsin did not vote for these changes. The people of Wisconsin voted for the opportunity to elect a governor, and they elected me,” said Evers, who spoke with reporters after leaving a meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents at UW-La Crosse.
“We have some big issues in the state of Wisconsin — whether it’s transportation, whether it’s funding for education, whether it’s making sure we have accessible and affordable health care,” he said. “We have to make sure we reach agreement and common ground on these issues, and I’ll continue to do that.”
In the wee hours on Wednesday, after hotly contested meetings behind closed doors, Republican lawmakers voted to strip the governorship of many of the powers Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has enjoyed over the past eight years.
The legislation would likely prevent Evers from fulfilling several of his campaign promises, including pulling Wisconsin from a multistate legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act and dissolving the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Walker’s controversial jobs agency.
It would also shrink the window for early voting in Madison and Milwaukee — this after record early voting totals helped Democrats win every statewide race in the November election.
Evers has requested a meeting with Walker, in hopes of persuading the current governor to veto the bill. On Thursday, Evers said no such meeting had been set.
“My staff is trying to work though that, to make that happen,” he said.
If signed by Walker, the bill figures to ignite a legal firestorm with Evers and Democrats fighting the legislation in court.
A law similar to the early voting measure was struck down by a federal judge in 2016.
While lamenting the possibility of a drawn-out legal battle to begin his term, Evers indicated that he does not expect this latest power struggle to cause irreparable damage between the two parties.
“It’s part of my DNA to look for common ground — regardless of what happens with this,” he said. “When I ran for this, my goal was to make sure I work for the people of Wisconsin to solve our problems.”
While some Republicans have framed the bill as a long-needed check on a governorship that has grown too powerful, Robin Vos, the speaker of the Assembly, suggested his motivations were largely partisan.
Without the legislation, he said, “we are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”
Evers underscored the perceived partisan nature of the lame-duck Legislature on Thursday, though it was not the common ground he had in mind.
“I’d bet my last dollar that if Gov. Walker had won, we would not be having this conversation,” he said.