If you’re looking for the first clip that will be used against every Wisconsin Democrat in the legislature in 2022, state Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley (D-Mason) provided it Wednesday.
Participating in a “legislative roundtable” sponsored by the Wisconsin Counties Association, Bewley questioned the intelligence of voters who refused to vote for higher taxes. When given a chance to retract her statement, Bewley refused.
The senator was advocating for a provision in the governor’s budget proposal which would allow counties to raise the sales tax an additional .5% if approved by the voters. She pointed out the need for higher taxes by mentioning four townships in her area that are unable to provide ambulance services.
“Have they gone to referendum already and asked the voters to increase their own revenues?” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) asked.
“They haven’t had time yet but they’re thinking of it, yes,” Bewley responded.
“They have option now, right?” Vos asked.
“Yes they do,” Bewley responded. “And the voters will turn it down and they are going to be in the same position that they’re in right now.”
“So if the voters turn it down, doesn’t that mean that they don’t support what you’re advocating for?” Vos asked.
“No. Perhaps it means they’re not smart,” Bewley said. “You know. Sometimes we have to do things that allow them the ability – we, as the state have to do things that are part of the state’s responsibility that should not always be linked to one group. If they can’t provide it, don’t we have some collective responsibility to help those communities that depend on volunteer emergency services?”
“Janet, do you want to re-think that?” Vos asked. “I disagree with people a lot but I don’t think that people who disagree with me are dumb. You just basically said your constituents are dumb who disagree with you.”
“Well, the reference to Walworth County didn’t go over to well with me, so…” Bewley responded, referring to an early comment by Vos about Walworth County using their existing sales tax authority to lower property taxes.
You can see the whole exchange below (49:29):
In an interview with the Associated Press, Bewley called her remarks, a “failed attempt at sarcasm and poor choice of words.”