Vos, LeMahieu talk surplus, Trump effect on midterms

MADISON, Wis. — “Revenue without reform isn’t going to happen,” was the refrain from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, responding to a campaign push from Gov. Tony Evers to increase the amount of funds the state provides to municipalities.

The Rochester Republican said he wanted to see cities spend their money more efficiently before giving them more funds from state coffers.

“I am waiting for the reform proposal that can match the new revenue, but it almost always focuses on just — ‘give us the revenue and we’ll figure it out later’ — as they create goofy positions inside government as they do all this DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] mumbo jumbo,” Vos said.

The comments come as state leaders are debating how to spend the state’s surplus, which according to a new report, is projected to be at a record high at the end of this fiscal year.

Speaking at a WisPolitics.com event in Madison Tuesday, Vos and his Senate counterpart Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said they would be open to spending the surplus on tax cuts. The governor had floated the idea of cutting taxes for filers making less than $100,000 in August, but Republicans like LeMahieu have pushed for a flat tax.

The Republican leaders added that Evers had called them to set up future talks between the two sides — a change from the past four years that often saw Evers at odds with Republican leadership.

Trump effect on Wisconsin midterms

The two leaders also reflected on the role former President Donald Trump played in the midterm elections two weeks ago, saying he was possibly a drag on the Republican ticket.

Vos himself faced a Trump-backed primary opponent, who later challenged the speaker in the general election as a write-in candidate.

“I am convinced that if Donald Trump had not endorsed my primary opponent, I could have lost,” Vos said.

“I was shocked at how many people — after he endorsed my primary opponent, I would knock on doors and they would say, ‘you know I was not going to vote for you, but the fact that you are not with Trump, I am with you now,'” he added.

LeMahieu said he heard that from voters as well, and that Trump’s endorsement of Tim Michels in the governor’s race was a reason some Republicans did not vote for him.

“She said, ‘I will never vote for someone who goes to Donald Trump and asks for an endorsement, I just won’t do it,'” LeMahieu said he heard from one voter.

Vos credited Trump with bringing new voters into the Republican Party, but the hold Trump still has over Republicans in Wisconsin will be debated as he gears up for a 2024 presidential run with a nominating convention in Milwaukee.

Legislators promise to remain a check on Evers

The two legislators indicated they will continue to provide a check on Evers, with LeMahieu saying he wants to use the Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee to look into how the governor spent federal pandemic aid, which he was able to disburse unilaterally.

Vos, the state’s longest-serving Assembly speaker, said he had been considering retiring from the Legislature, but he decided he wanted to stay after Evers’ victory earlier this month.

Republicans have also captured a supermajority in the state Senate, allowing them to impeach and remove state officials without needing any Democratic support. The Senate has also delayed the confirmation for and rejected a handful of Evers’ cabinet appointees during his first term.

LeMahieu said the Senate will continue in the normal confirmation process for Evers’ second term, during a Q&A with reporters after the event. He added that there were no specific secretary-appointees that he had issues with confirming.

Vos did not make himself available after the event for reporters’ questions.