The election is over and the mandate is clear: Wisconsin remains perhaps the most purple state in the union.
State voters re-elected Democratic Gov. Tony Evers by a wider margin than last time and sent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson back to Washington. A purple vote if ever there was one.
Republican control of the state Assembly looks much redder and they look to have a supermajority in the state Senate. Democrat Attorney General Josh Kaul was re-elected and incumbent Democrat Secretary of State Doug La Follette was clinging to a narrow lead at mid-week in a race that was not yet called.
Purple. So, what is the voters’ mandate? It would suggest to us that voters want state parties to give up their capital D’s and R’s and look for a capital “C” — compromise.
We don’t want four more years of intransigence and partisan logjams that go nowhere over in Madison. Our advice to Gov. Evers, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu is this: Talk to each other, find common ground, work for the best interests of all the people of the state – and not just those in your partisan party silos.
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It can be done. We’ve seen it done in the recent past.
Start with the money. Wisconsin has the rare luxury of having a $5 billion projected surplus in the state budget and that’s an opportunity to do some real good. Rep. Vos suggested recently he could work with Gov. Evers if it means enacting conservative priorities such as tax cuts. Evers last summer proposed spending $600 million of the surplus on tax cuts for the middle class, but that was rejected by Republicans as a campaign ploy.
But that was then, this is now. Restart that conversation.
Evers says he wants more funding for public schools. Vos says he can support that, but only if Evers bends in his opposition to universal school choice. School choice support has grown in the state and it may be time for Evers to adjust to that reality. There is room for discussion here.
Evers supports legalization of marijuana in the state, but Sen. LeMahieu said Republicans would not support that. LeMahieu and Vos may want to look at the multiple referendums in the state and polls that show more than 60% of state residents support that legalization. There is room for discussion here.
Some issues — like the fight over the state’s near-absolute abortion ban which is being challenged in court — may defy easy resolution. Evers is hoping that Attorney General Josh Kaul’s suit will overturn the ban; Vos has called for legislation to allow exceptions for cases of rape and incest in hopes that the courts will not strike down the abortion ban. There could be room for discussion here.
It’s up to Evers, Vos and LeMahieu to have those talks. Openly and honestly, Put aside issues that will bear no fruit and focus on the places where compromise and agreement are possible.
We don’t want to see Evers vetoing 120 bills in the next four years. That’s a mark of failure on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.
For the success of all of Wisconsin, that’s the mandate for a purple state.