MADISON, Wis. — Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Wednesday he is open to looking at ways to limit the power of incoming Democratic governor Tony Evers before he takes office in January.
Vos told reporters that in a lame duck legislative session later this month or next, he would consider bills that would "rebalance" powers of the executive, without saying what limitations he'd be open to considering. Vos said he wanted to discuss it with Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who was meeting with GOP senators on Thursday to elect leaders.
Evers narrowly defeated Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday, setting up divided government in Wisconsin for the first time since 2008. Republicans maintained control in the Assembly and Senate, creating likely gridlock with Evers.
Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said it was "unfortunate" that Vos was "doubling down on division just hours after Governor-elect Evers called on Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald to set aside differences and work together on the pressing issues facing our state."
Vos made clear that Republicans would not be giving him a free pass, despite ihs victory, and will work to "continue to deliver on our conservative promises."
"If he chooses to poke Republicans in the eye, he will end up getting very little of what he wants," Vos said. "If he wants to argue about Act 10 and all of the things that make people who eat granola and live in downtown Madison happy, that is his right but that is not where common ground is going to be found."
Evers' victory is ushering in a realignment of political power in Wisconsin. Attorney general candidate Josh Kaul claimed victory over Republican incumbent Brad Schimel and Democrats were elected as state treasurer and secretary of state. That marks the first time since 1982 that Democrats will hold all those offices — although the Kaul victory remained too close to call. Schimel said it appeared Kaul had enough votes for the win.
As governor, Evers will propose a state budget, the Republican Legislature will be able to rewrite it. Evers has extensive veto power and Republicans don't have large enough majorities to override him.
Evers ran on the promise to scale back much of the conservative laws Walker and Republican lawmakers enacted over eight years. That includes reducing tax credits for manufacturers and restoring collective bargaining rights lost under Act 10 for union members who backed him.
He also has said he wants to accept federal money to expand Medicaid that Walker refused and renegotiate a $3 billion incentives package Walker negotiated for a Foxconn Technology Group flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant. The company has said the plant could employ up to 13,000 people, but Evers said the incentives package, the largest in U.S. history to a foreign corporation, was too rich.
The GOP turned back every Democratic challenger in both the Assembly and Senate with one race still too close to call Wednesday. What's more, the GOP flipped a Senate seat that Democrats had won in a special election this summer. As of Wednesday, unofficial returns showed the GOP with a 63-35 Assembly advantage and a 19-14 Senate edge.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling didn't return a message. Other Democrats blamed their failure on GOP-drawn legislative district boundaries.
Republicans re-drew the boundaries in 2011 as required to reflect population changes following the 2010 census. Democrats contend the GOP illegally consolidated power, packing their supporters together and dividing Democratic voters across districts.
Republicans forcefully deny that argument, saying the districts were drawn fairly.
Democrats filed a federal lawsuit three years ago challenging the lines as unconstitutional. After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case earlier this year, it remains pending with a trial set for April in Madison.
"The data are clear that the state is evenly divided but the Legislature has massive majorities for one party because they rigged the maps," said Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Election Project, which organized the lawsuit. "Legislative results don't match up with what is happening across the state. The evidence now is even clearer. (Tuesday's election) reinforces the case that the maps are rigged. And all that evidence is in play in April."
If Democrats lose in court they'll have to live with the maps for the 2020 elections. The Legislature is scheduled to re-draw the boundaries again in 2021 to reflect the 2020 census. Evers will be finishing the third year of his first term in 2021 and would be able to veto any maps the GOP proposes. That would force a federal judge to break the impasse and draw the maps himself.
"Either way we're going to get fairer maps for the 2022 elections," Chheda said.
This story corrects the spelling of Chheda on first reference.