FOX 11 Investigates: What will divided state government be able to accomplish?

MADISON (WLUK) -- In just four days, a new era begins in Wisconsin politics: divided government.

After nearly a decade of one-party control, the new state government is taking shape in Madison.

"The governor is still a very powerful position in Wisconsin," said Republican strategist Mark Graul.

He says despite the fact that Republicans still control the Legislature, Gov.-elect Tony Evers will yield a lot of influence.

"He's going to get to control all of the agencies and decisions that they make are going to be impactful," Graul said.

Plus, Evers will have the power of the pen -- the veto pen, that is.

"The governor in Wisconsin has one of the most powerful line-item vetoes in the country, so it will be interesting to see, especially with the budget, how that process plays out," Graul said.

"The governor gets to have more than his say. Not a single piece of legislation can pass without his signature," said Scot Ross from the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.

Ross says Evers will also have the ability to control what gets talked about.

"The bully pulpit is incredibly powerful. It may be more powerful than even the governor's veto pen because it's a way of having that conversation that we haven't had. We've had the conversation about Republican priorities for the last eight years," Ross added.

Now, he says both sides will have a seat at the table.

"People are asking for change. They went to the polls in November demanding a change in state government. They got the change. Now, it's up to the legislators to respect the will of the people," Ross said.


Graul says the message for lawmakers is clear: Find a way to work together.

"The Legislature can pass as many bills as it wants and the governor can veto them. Republicans can't override that veto so I think you're going to see people figure it out that if they want to be successful, if they want to get things done, they're going to have to compromise," Graul told FOX 11 Investigates.

Some lawmakers question whether that can happen.

"I think they've got us off on the wrong foot by what they've done," said State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay.

Hansen is referring to the lame duck bills that were passed by the Republican Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in December. Those bills weaken the incoming governor and attorney general.


When asked how much Evers will be able to get done, Hansen replied, "We're going to do as much as we can to help him. Of course, we're in the minority but I think it would behoove the Republicans to understand, he's our governor."

"I just think it's an opportunity to all to work together again as back in the day, we got along," Hansen added.

Assembly Majority Leader State Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, voted for the lame duck bills. He says the goal was to protect the legislative process and balance of power in Madison.

His focus now is on finding common ground with Evers.

"We're going to need each other going forward. He's not going to able to accomplish a lot without us and we're not going to be able to accomplish a lot without him," Steineke told FOX 11 Investigates. "So we're going to have to work extremely hard to find the areas that we can agree so we can continue to move Wisconsin forward."

When asked about the issues where the two sides could find common ground, Steineke replied, "I think education spending."

He added, "Transportation funding, trying to find a fix there. Still working on the opioid epidemic. Things of that nature I think there's going to be a lot of common ground."

Political strategists agree.

"I think in areas like access to mental health treatment, I think there's going to be a lot of bipartisan compromise there. I think you're going to see some bipartisan cooperation when it comes to transportation," Graul said. "Now, are there going to be areas of disagreement? Yes. Will those get the most attention? Yes. But I still think there's going to be a lot of areas where we see the Evers administration and Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature working together."

Ross expects Evers to continue to push for his agenda.

"Gov.-elect Evers talked about transportation. He talked about education. He talked about health and he won. Those will be central in the discussion that he has with the people of Wisconsin about how we move the state forward," Ross told FOX 11 Investigates.

When asked if Evers will be able to do those things with a Republican legislature, Ross responded, "Yes."

We won't have to wait too long to find out how the new, divided government will operate here in Madison. The governor-elect is expected to make his budget proposal in February and then it will be in the hands of the Republican Legislature before coming back to the governor again for his signature.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off

Trending