Behold, the child-king Evers
Governor’s immaturity shows in first few months
We are almost three months into Governor Tony Evers’ term. He has had time to find the lunch room, rearrange his office, figure out his network access, and get his bearings. It is time to take a look at how those three months have gone. Frankly, it hasn’t gone very well. Seemingly every action has been marked by incompetence, rank partisanship, childishness, or all three — and he doesn’t seem to be improving.
Immediately upon assuming office, Evers made it clear that Wisconsin was no longer “open for business” by stripping that slogan, so often associated with Scott Walker, off of all of Wisconsin’s welcome signs. While well within his power, it was a ham-handed action that immediately confirmed what all thinking people already knew: Tony Evers’ administration will be bad for business.
Recognizing that Wisconsin is now in a period of divided government that would require compromise, Republicans in the Legislature immediately set about advancing several bills that were on the rhetorical common ground. First, the legislative Republicans advanced a bill to require health insurers to accept people with pre-existing conditions should Obamacare fall. This was a position advocated by Republicans and Evers during the campaign, but Evers immediately dismissed the bill while admitting that he had not even read it.
Then the Republicans in the Legislature passed a tax cut for the middle class. Evers had advocated for such a tax cut in the waning days of the campaign and the Republicans thought he was serious. Always in favor of cutting taxes, the Republicans passed a middle-class tax cut and even gave Evers credit for it. Evers quickly vetoed the tax cut using a fig leaf of an excuse.
Just last month, the Republicans tried again to work on common ground. Both parties strongly agree that the use of the term “mental retardation” is offensive in the modern nomenclature and should be replaced with a more suitable term in the state’s statutory and regulatory language. The Republicans passed a bill to this effect, but Evers moved to take credit on the issue by issuing an executive order before the bill could hit his desk.
In all three instances, Evers was presented with an opportunity to build bridges over common ground with the Republicans in the Legislature, but chose to burn them instead. Not only were his actions partisan and childish, they were politically tone-deaf and will have the practical effect of hampering his ability to advance his initiatives through a Republican-led Legislature that he insists on affronting at every opportunity.
Then there were the series of actions where one truly questions Governor Evers’ competence and grip on reality. In February he released a statistic that “drug-related offenses make up as much as 75%-85% of inmate population.” The statistic is ridiculous on its face, but with the entire Wisconsin Department of Corrections under his management, he used the outlandish statistic anyway. The real number is about 11% and Evers quickly tossed his claim into the memory hole when called out on it.
Evers refused to release a note that outgoing Governor Walker left for him. The note is clearly a public record, and an innocuous one at that. But Evers rejected an open records request for it until hours after The Associated Press printed a story about his refusal. Evers’ gut instinct toward secrecy is concerning.
A couple of weeks ago, Evers said in an interview that his budget proposal, with well over a billion dollars in tax increases, was “pretty close” to honoring his campaign pledge to not raise taxes. Such a departure from reality is disconcerting for those of us being asked to pay those tax increases.
Then, of course, there was Evers’ budget. Unlike the Republicans who are trying to find compromise in an era of divided government, Evers released a budget that was a liberal manifesto that would burn down the last eight years in one spectacular conflagration. Evers’ budget made no attempt to accommodate the ideas or concerns of any but his most rabidly liberal advisers.
Finally, over the last couple of weeks, Evers has moved to take advantage of a small window of opportunity wrested open by a rogue Madison judge to replace 82 Walker appointees even though an Appeals Court has already stayed the preposterous ruling. Evers’ actions are clearly illegal, but his partisan instinct to stack nonpartisan boards with activists is too great. The entire reason we have board terms that span election cycles is to protect these boards from wild partisan swings, but Evers does not have any interest in good government when he can leverage a partisan advantage.
It is normal for a new administration to have a few missteps, but the first three months of the Evers administration has been something to behold. Whether viewed through the lens of partisanship, competence, or maturity, Evers is off to a rough start.
(Owen B. Robinson is a West Bend resident. He can be reached at owen@bootsandsabers. com.)
Seemingly every action has been marked by incompetence, rank partisanship, childishness, or all three — and he doesn’t seem to be improving.