'Compromise is possible': Political strategist weighs in on Gov. Evers' budget proposals

NOW: ’Compromise is possible’: Political strategist weighs in on Gov. Evers’ budget proposals

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Governor Tony Evers will introduce his second biennial state budget address on Tuesday, focused on initiatives he’s advocated for since taking office, such as expanding Medicaid coverage and legalizing marijuana.

Gov. Evers announced several of his budget proposals ahead of his speech scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, including; $150 million towards mental health services, a $500 tax credit for caregivers, reducing prescription drug costs, increasing health care access to farmers, small business grants, expanding BadgerCare, legalizing recreational marijuana and allowing communities to increase their local sales tax.

Melissa Baldauff, a former aide to Gov. Evers, said his speech will focus on issues important to taxpayers, noting a majority of voters support expanding Medicaid and medical marijuana in polls by the Marquette University Law School.

All of those really important things people cared about in 2018 when they elected him they still care about, maybe even more when you think about how many people lost jobs and their health care was tied to their employment,” said Baldauff.

Bill McCoshen, a Republican strategist who also served under former Gov. Tommy Thompson, said he views Evers' budget address as a reelection platform if he decides to run again. Evers has not made up his mind yet if he’ll seek another term.

“It’s a big speech for the governor,” said McCoshen. “When I worked for Tommy Thompson, he would say you win reelection in the third year, so this is really Evers' reelection budget.”

Some of his proposals will be difficult to gain support from the Republican-controlled Legislature, such as expanding the BadgerCare Medicaid program which would provide health insurance to an additional 90,000 people, according to the governor’s office.

The idea was introduced in Evers’ 2019 budget address, but Republicans rejected it.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational use is also opposed by Republicans, but the idea could lead to a compromise down the road on legalizing medical marijuana, as some members in the majority party are open to the idea.

Areas of potential compromise include reducing prescription drug costs, expanding health care services to farmers and helping small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Maybe on the venture capital fund, replacing the unemployment systems -- I think those are areas to find common ground, but on Evers' big signatures items, I think he’s going to strike out,” McCoshen said. “If he does anything to get small businesses back on their feed and reopen schools, Republicans will be right there with him.”

The governor is seeking to invest $200 million towards small businesses, $29 million for workforce development initiatives and $100 million for a new venture capital program to help Wisconsin’s economy rebound.

GOP leadership and the state’s budget committee play a critical role in crafting the next state budget. Republicans have the power to strip many of Evers’ proposals or they can rewrite their own budget from scratch.

“The budget is not going to be able to solve all the problems. Republicans may not like it but they’re going to have to get to work and work with the governor,” said Baldauff.

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