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Newly sworn-in Gov. Tony Evers calls for rejection of 'tired politics'

Posted at 6:02 AM, Jan 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-07 17:06:58-05

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Newly sworn-in Gov. Tony Evers is calling for a rejection of "the tired politics of the past" in his first speech as Wisconsin governor, saying "we've become content with division."

Evers delivered his inauguration speech Monday at a packed Capitol rotunda ceremony attended by five former governors and other dignitaries.

Evers says the people of Wisconsin have gotten away from the values like kindness, respect, and civility. He is calling for Republicans and Democrats to work together to solve problems.

Evers emphasized his campaign priorities. He is calling for fully funding public schools "at every level" from pre-kindergarten through college. Evers also called for making sure health care is affordable and accessible and improving the conditions of Wisconsin's roads.

Democrat Tony Evers is set to take the oath of office and replace Gov. Scott Walker during a noon ceremony Monday at the state Capitol, ending eight years of Republican dominance in Wisconsin.

Evers' inauguration will herald a new era of Wisconsin politics. While Republicans will maintain control of the Legislature, having Evers in place will give Democrats the power to block GOP bills and force either compromise or gridlock.

It marks the first time since 2006, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor, that the entire Legislature is controlled by the opposite party of the governor. In 2007 and 2008, Doyle was governor and Democrats had control of the Senate, but Republicans had the Assembly. In 2009 and 2010 Democrats controlled everything, and since 2011 Republicans had it all.

Walker and the GOP used their power to transform Wisconsin, enacting a host of conservative priorities including all but eliminating collective bargaining for public workers and putting in place political boundaries that favor Republican incumbents.

Evers says he wants to work together with Republicans and build a more civil political discourse in Wisconsin. But many of his priorities run counter to what Republicans want, including expanding Medicaid, increasing school spending by 10 percent and dramatically scaling back a corporate tax break program to pay for a middle-class income tax cut.

Republicans are already preparing to write an alternative state budget, which Evers has threatened to veto.

Evers is expected to deliver his first State of the State speech later this month, then present his budget to lawmakers in late February or early March.

But Monday's inaugurations are about celebrating, giving Evers a chance to outline his priorities and offering a brief respite before the fights begin. Walker and other former governors are among the dignitaries expected to attend.

In addition to Evers, all other constitutional officers elected in November will be sworn into office. They are all Democrats, marking the first time since 1983 that all offices will be held by Democrats. Those being sworn in are Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Attorney General Josh Kaul, Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Secretary of State Doug La Follette. La Follette is the only incumbent.

Newly elected members of the Legislature will also take office. In the Assembly, 63 Republicans and 36 Democrats will be seated. Of them, eight Republicans and seven Democrats are new. In the Senate, 11 Republicans and six Democrats are taking office. Of them, three Republicans and one Democrat are new. Republicans will hold a 19-14 majority.