Wisconsin’s Republican legislators aren’t the only ones criticizing Governor Tony Evers’ budget proposal. Evers’ plan for the next two years in Wisconsin is seen by conservatives as taking a step backward.

Former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, a possible candidate for governor in 2022, through her 1848 Project attacked Evers’ budget for failing to address re-opening schools.

“Governor Evers is out of touch with regular Wisconsinites,” Kleefisch said in a statement after Evers’ virtual speech to the legislature on Tuesday. “He feigns passion in his insistence on returning K-12 education to two-thirds funding; average parents would settle for having their kids in school two-thirds of the time rather than endure the learning loss, anxiety and depression brought on by the left’s advocacy for virtual-only education.”

Kleefisch’s comments were echoed by CJ Szafir, president of the Institute for Reforming Government.

“Most tragically, his plan will not help the students in Wisconsin’s largest school districts that are still learning virtual nearly a year later, despite receiving billions in funding from the federal government,” Szafir said in an email. “The state must show leadership in order to get these schools – Milwaukee, Madison – to re-open their doors. No in-person learning, no funding.”

The governor’s proposed budget would also increase taxes over $1 billion.

“Wisconsin cannot afford to go backwards at a time when we are teetering on a recession and global pandemic,” said Szafir. “Increasing taxes, coupled with massive spending hikes is simply reckless, as families have tightened their budget to reflect the times.”

Kurt Bauer, the CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business organization, called the budget’s tax increases “irresponsibly anti-business.”

“If enacted, this bill would severely erode our state’s business climate and economic competitiveness,” Bauer wrote. “Wisconsin’s business community appeals to state lawmakers to craft a pragmatic state budget that recognizes raising taxes and imposing other costly burdens on the economy during a pandemic-induced downturn is the completely wrong approach.”

The legislature voted just before the governor’s budget address to stop one planned tax increase by the Evers Administration, eliminating the deduction for expenses covered by the federal Covid relief Paycheck Protection Program. That bill is now headed to the governor for his signature or veto.

“It is equally disingenuous for the governor to promise millions to help small businesses, when he also wants to tax them more millions just for taking the federal help that these businesses accepted to survive,” Kleefisch said. 

But another feature of Evers’ budget proposal, one that Evers did not address in his budget speech, has conservatives concerned.

Evers’ budget would restore collective bargaining over benefits for public employees, eliminate the annual recertification requirement of a majority vote of the employees affected, and repeal the state’s Right to Work laws.

“Governor Evers is quietly attempting to roll back Act 10 – the landmark legislation that saved our state from economic collapse,” Kleefisch warned.

Collectively known as Act 10, the reforms are approaching their 10th anniversary. According to an analysis by the MacIver Institute, Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers $13.9 billion. At the time that the state passed Act 10, Wisconsin had a $156 million current budget deficit and a $3.6 billion structural deficit.

“Under Governor Walker and Republican leadership, Act 10 took power away from union bosses, giving it back to taxpayers and giving local governments the tools they need to curb costs not spend more,” explained Szafir.

Will Flanders, the director of research for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, also criticized Evers for wanting to repeal Act 10.

“Despite more spending, @govevers budget will hurt Wisconsin kids,” Flanders wrote on Twitter. “Not only does he kowtow to unions on school reopenings, but also by rolling back #Act10 which has resulted in higher quality teachers in Wisconsin schools.”

Flanders also criticized Evers for attacking school choice programs and charter schools:

Jim Bender, School Choice Wisconsin’s Government Affairs and Public Policy Consultant, said in a statement that with schools closed because the unions don’t want them open during the Covid-19 pandemic, school choice is needed more than ever.

“In Milwaukee, Madison and elsewhere, the private schools are the only
schools providing in-person instruction and the lifelines so many families need,” Bender said. “Locking parents out of the Parental Choice Programs, just as some desire to lock all students out of schools, is not based on the data, science or the best interest of families.”

Bender said families deserve a say in educational policy.

“Elected officials, insulated bureaucrats and public unions are all at the table making broad education decisions. Unfortunately, that table has little room for families,” Bender said. “For many parents, the opposition to allowing them to make educational decisions for their children has been a wakeup call they will not soon forget. The public and private school leaders, teachers and coaches working tirelessly to accommodate parents will be remembered.”

Szafir said, given all of the flaws in the proposed budget, the legislature should start from scratch.

“The legislature should reject the budget, start over, and create a policy environment that helps businesses expand, deals with the COVID crisis, and requires schools to be open,” Szafir said.

Eric Bott, the Director of Americans for Prosperity – Wisconsin, predicted Evers’ budget proposal is doomed in the legislature.

“It’s DOA,” Bott posted on Twitter. “The budget repeals Act 10 and {Right to Work}, restores prevailing wage, hikes all sorts of taxes, hammers small biz with {Unemployment Insurance} changes, is loaded with pork and corporate welfare, blows holes in the prop{arty} tax freeze, moves toward a public option, and that’s basically just page 1…”