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MOUNT PLEASANT — The 2023-25 Wisconsin biannual state budget is a work in progress – for now at least.

The approximately 25 residents who gathered at Mount Pleasant Village Hall on Tuesday evening, got the Republican Party’s perspective on the prospective state budget from a pair of GOP lawmakers who represent Racine County: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine.

2020 election
Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester and Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine. – Credit: Wisconsin State Legislature photos

The Mount Pleasant meeting was Tuesday’s third for Vos and Wanggaard. Other sessions were held in Burlington and Union Grove. Vos represents the 63rd Assembly District that covers a swath through the central portion of the county including Burlington, Union Grove, Sturtevant and Mount Pleasant. Wanggaard’s 20th Senate District covers suburban and rural parts of Racine and Kenosha counties plus the City of Racine’s far west side.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a good budget that we all can agree on,” said Vos, who anticipates that the new budget should be ready around July 4.

The Budget Process

But first, Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature, need to craft a new, two-year budget that will clear the Assembly and the State and ultimately be signed into law by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.

The two Racine County Republicans touted “good stewardship” of tax dollars that have saved the average family of four about $1,500 annually since 2011 and helped produce a record $7 billion state budget surplus, including a $1.7 billion “rainy day fund.”

But, they also part company with the governor’s ideas of how state tax dollars should be spent.

“We’re challenged by the budget that Gov. Evers has proposed. It’s totally out of touch with reality, which is why the Joint Finance Committee has basically zeroed things out and is starting over,” said Vos.

“That money has been spent two or three times over,” added Wanggaard. “The Joint Finance Committee tries to strip out the extras and arrive at a base budget.”

The 16-member Joint Finance Committee (JFC), made up of 12 Republicans and four Democrats, did exactly that earlier Tuesday. On a party-line vote, the JFC removed 545 items that Evers had proposed for the new $104 billion budget in February. The move means the JFC will start from scratch and craft its own spending plan.

Among the Evers proposals now off the table were a 10% income tax cut aimed at middle- and low-income residents; a 12-week paid family and medical leave plan for public and private sector workers; $270 million for school mental health providers, and $290 million for future repairs to American Family Field – the Milwaukee Brewers baseball stadium.

A non-financial Evers budget proposal, also removed by the JFC, was the legalization of both recreational and medical marijuana.

Vos pushes shared revenue

In proposed legislation that is separate from the state budget, Republicans want to provide more than a half-billion dollars in additional revenue to counties, cities, towns and villages, Vos said. The money would come from moving 20% (or one penny) of the state’s collected 5-cent sales tax to the local governments.

Local governments have long lobbied the Legislature for more shared revenue noting that state funding has remained flat for more than a decade. The new revenue-sharing proposal would provide local governments with $227 million and require the money be spent on public safety, emergency response communications, transportation and public works.

Answering a question raised by Mount Pleasant Village Board member Ram Bhatia, Vos said that Mount Pleasant would receive an estimated $755 million annually in additional shared revenue while the City of Racine’s shared revenue would climb by about $2.1 million.

“Every municipality in the state will get a 10% increase,” said Vos.

Another $300 million – also drawn from the state sales tax – would go toward what Vos called a “new innovation fund.” This would be a grant program that would encourage municipalities to voluntarily share equipment or services.

Strings attached

Vos didn’t mention some strings attached to the GOP’s proposed shared revenue plan as reported by The Associated Press. They include a requirement barring local public health officials from mandating business closures for more than 14 days; a requirement that high schools collect and maintain reports about incidents of sexual assault, robbery and battery; and a ban on local advisory ballot questions like asking voter opinion on legalizing marijuana or repealing the state’s 1849 abortion ban.

Non-budget Q&A

The Mount Pleasant audience posed most non-budget discussions with Vos and Wanggaard than budget talk. A few examples:


Both legislators repeated their opposition to so-called red flag laws, which give authorities the power to take firearms away from people found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others. They also argued that Wisconsin’s information database provides sufficient background information on prospective gun buyers.

“I don’t support red flag – the notion that someone can go, without your knowledge, and take away your rights based on something you might do,” said Vos.

Wanggaard noted that he led a successful effort to end a previously required 48-hour waiting period for someone to purchase a gun because he believed that the wait simply made no sense. “If I’ve never committed a crime and I’m cleared to own a gun, why should I have to wait?” he said.

Passenger rail service

Vos and Wanggaard said they were supportive of federal dollars going toward an additional set of rail cars for the Amtrak Hiawatha Service passenger trains that stop in Racine County on daily trips between Chicago and Milwaukee. Vos said he’d draw the line, however, at more state money beyond Wisconsin’s current $7 million annual contribution to the rail service. “I’m OK with the Hiawatha, but I’m not so sure about spending more money.”

Election administration

Some audience members repeatedly asked Vos and Wanggaard about what they perceived as the Wisconsin Election Commission’s (WEC) inability to oversee state and local elections.

“WEC is rogue and needs to be disbanded and replaced,” said one audience member.

Vos said that while he sometimes disagreed with WEC staff interpretations of state election laws, he was supportive of the current system in which approximately 1,800 local government clerks statewide handle election administration. Oversight and guidance comes from the six-member WEC, which is made up of three Republican appointees and three Democratic appointees.

“I do not want the Secretary of State to run the elections either, as some have suggested,” said Vos. Free and fair elections should be the result of non-partisan administration. The Secretary of State is currently an elected, partisan position as are members of the Legislature.

Wanggaard and Vos were both critical of WEC Administrator Meghan Wolfe, whose term ends in July. Her guidance on election procedures has been the subject of several lawsuits. But as Wanggaard noted, Wolfe has not been found criminally liable. It is not yet known if she will be re-appointed by the WEC and subject to State Senate confirmation.

“If she (Wolfe) were my employee, I wouldn’t have allowed her to get that far,” said Wanggaard. “There will be an analysis of WEC performance, but I can’t tell you ahead of time what’s going to happen.”


While Vos has recently indicated that lawmakers are discussing ways to legalize marijuana for medical treatment, Wanggaard dug in his heels. Wisconsin is among 11 states where both recreational and medical marijuana is illegal.

“I will not support it (legalization),” Wanggaard said in response to an audience question. “I don’t want to see more doped-up people driving cars.”

He added that he’d consider supporting medical marijuana if he could find legitimate scientific studies showing that low-level THC was a viable treatment.

“I’ll keep on working on him,” quipped Vos.

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...