Evers to focus on workforce challenges in sixth State of the State address

Posted at 12:27 PM, Jan 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-23 13:27:46-05

MADISON (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers plans to call on Republicans and Democrats to work together to address Wisconsin's workforce shortages, based on excerpts from his State of the State speech released ahead of its delivery Tuesday night.

The speech comes as the Democratic Evers enters his sixth year as governor working with a Republican-led Legislature. That majority is projected to be weakened under new legislative maps ordered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court after it ruled that the current Republican-drawn maps were unconstitutional.

Evers won reelection in 2022, part of a continuation of recent Democratic victories that include last year's spring election that flipped majority control of the state Supreme Court in favor of liberals.

The address also comes with Wisconsin in the national political spotlight, less than 10 months before the presidential election. Wisconsin is one of just a handful of true swing states that could vote either way in November's presidential contest.

In a sign of Wisconsin's important, Vice President Kamala Harris was in the Milwaukee area on Monday talking about abortion rights. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has scheduled a Thursday visit to northwestern Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border, where he plans to discuss investments in infrastructure.

Evers plans to credit Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is also up for reelection in November, with helping to secure more than $1 billion in federal funding to replace the Blatnik Bridge that connects Superior, Wisconsin, to Duluth, Minnesota. Biden is also expected to tout that project, which received funding from the federal infrastructure bill he signed, during his visit on Thursday.

In his speech to be delivered before lawmakers, members of the state Supreme Court and others, Evers plans to highlight bipartisan successes in the past year, including an agreement on a plan to pay for repairs to the Milwaukee Brewers' stadium that will keep the team in Wisconsin through at least 2050.

But much partisan rancor remains and is growing.

Republicans have repeatedly tried, and failed, to get Evers to sign off on multiple tax cut plans. Republicans are also preparing for the Supreme Court to institute new maps that would greatly weaken their majorities. Evers has proposed his own map, along with lawmakers and others, which the court is considering.

Despite the divisions, Evers will call on Republicans and Democrats to work together to address the state's worker shortages and a lack of affordable housing and child care.

Evers will call for expanding paid family leave, an idea the Legislature rejected last year, investing more in public education and coming up with a long-term solution to child care shortages. Republicans also rejected a plan from Evers last year to continue the Child Care Counts program, but he got around them by allocating $170 million in pandemic relief funds to keep it running through June 2025.

"Republicans are officially on the clock to make the meaningful investments necessary to prevent the collapse of an industry that's essential for maintaining our current levels of workforce participation," Evers said in the excerpts.

Evers will challenge Republicans to come up with alternate plans if they continue to reject his comprehensive workforce proposals as they've done twice already.

"I will work with any legislator, any partner, any stakeholder who's willing to engage in meaningful conversations on these issues to do the right thing for Wisconsin," Evers said in the excerpts. "In the meantime, my administration will continue to pursue every pathway and seek every avenue to address our workforce challenges without legislative action, just as we have for five years."