MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democrat Tony Evers proposed a host of reforms Monday he plans to implement should Wisconsin voters elect him as governor, including automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds, nonpartisan redistricting and an inspector general to serve as a watchdog over state government.
The state schools superintendent unveiled the “government for us” agenda as his opponent, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, emphasized his call for increasing the maximum property tax credit for low-income senior citizens by 50 percent.
Also Monday, former President Barack Obama officially endorsed Evers in the race, saying he will “govern with respect, experience” and “put Wisconsin families before special interests and personal political ambitions.” President Donald Trump backs Walker.
Walker mocked Evers’ “Government for Us” plan on Twitter, saying it “means Madison bureaucrats and union bosses will be in charge of government - instead of the hard-working taxpayers. And Tony’s taxes will cost us jobs.”
Walker told reporters earlier Monday that Evers was making the proposals to distract voters from his support for raising taxes. Evers has said he’s open to increasing some taxes while cutting others as part of a broad agenda to lower the tax burden on working families and find a sustainable way to pay for roads.
“The only thing that people are going to get from Tony Evers are higher taxes,” Walker said, after discussing his homestead tax credit idea at the Milwaukee home of Carol Kimpel, who has owned it since 1953.
Walker called for expanding the maximum homestead tax credit for people like Kimpel from $1,168 to $1,752. He also wants to increase the maximum income for people over age 62 who can claim the credit from $24,680 to $37,020.
Walker’s office last month, when it first announced the idea, said the average increased benefit would be $483.
Walker also launched a new television ad touting the idea.
The push to raise the credit comes after Walker, in his first budget in 2011, eliminated indexing of the homestead exemption program, doing away with annual increases for maximum household income and property tax credits for those who qualify. Democrats have tried every budget since then to restore the annual increases, but Republicans have voted them down.
Walker also wants to restore indexing for inflation in 2022.
The Evers proposals unveiled Monday included a mix of new and old ideas from him, but many were lacking detail.
The proposals include:
- creating a nonpartisan redistrict reform commission. Democrats have been supportive of taking the job away from the Legislature since Republicans passed GOP-drawn maps in 2011. Evers has previously voiced his support for a nonpartisan approach before the next maps are drawn following the 2020 census.
- eliminating Walker’s economic development agency, a private-public partnership called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Evers wants to return to a model more similar to the previous Commerce Department.
- creating an inspector general office to “ensure Wisconsin families have an independent, nonpartisan watchdog keeping an eye on our Wisconsin government.” He did not provide details about where the office would be housed, how large it would be or how much it would cost.
- cutting “wasteful spending” including overpayments on road projects, overuse of the state airplane, and commemorative coins with the agency motto, like those used by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel. Evers did not have details on how much spending he intends to save or how he would identify what is wasteful, including what the appropriate use of the state airplane should be. Walker has faced criticism from the liberal group One Wisconsin Now and Democrats over his use of the state airplane.
- preventing the use of non-disclosure agreements in state agencies. Schimel has used such agreements for Department of Justice workers.
- require a 48-hour “cooling off” period between public hearings on legislation and committee votes, a break designed to ensure the public has time to weigh in on proposals.
Associated Press writer Ivan Moreno contributed to this story from Milwaukee.
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