'That’s not leadership': Gov. Tony Evers criticizes Speaker Vos' claims of election fraud
Evers addressed elections, shared revenue and public safety among other topics Thursday
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers is again addressing ongoing allegations of voter fraud, the day after Republican leaders attempting to decertify the 2020 presidential election met at the state Capitol with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.
While Vos said he cannot support an official decertification of the results, on Wednesday, March 16, he alleged "widespread fraud" in the election.
"I think he's one of the smartest people I've ever met and I think this is one of the dumbest things he's ever said," said Evers at a WisPolitics event in Madison on Thursday, March 17.
Vos’ words were circulated in a statement by former President Donald Trump, who continues to falsely assert that he won the 2020 election.
Evers maintained that Wisconsin’s elections were safe and secure, saying that Vos has no data to back up his claims. In fact, an investigation last year by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found no evidence of widespread election fraud.
Evers was critical of Vos’ attempts to suppress votes by "ratcheting up the false narrative" of election fraud, especially given his role as a leader in the state Assembly.
"That's not leadership," Evers said. "I just find that repugnant."
While the Republican-controlled Legislature recently passed numerous bills that would make voting more difficult, Evers said he would be vetoing most of them.
"One of the most important facets of people participating in a democracy is voting. And if we make it more difficult for eligible people to vote, that's a problem for me and I think it's a problem for everybody. So I will be vetoing those bills that fall into that category," Evers said.
The election probe will likely be a big issue in the upcoming election, which Evers said makes him angry. While Evers’ own rating is up recently, there is a growing field of Republican candidates , including decertification advocate Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport.
'That's where the money comes from'
At the event, Evers also addressed the financial needs of counties and municipalities across the state that are still recovering from the pandemic while contending with staff shortages and public safety concerns.
Just this week, Evers delivered $56 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to Milwaukee to pay for more police and to address a pandemic-related backlog of court cases.
Still, Evers said he wished he could do more for local governments.
Local services like police, fire and rescue are partially funded through the state’s shared revenue program, but that funding has been declining for decades.
In his most recent budget, Evers proposed an increase to shared revenue spending but said it was one of the first things the Legislature cut.
"The counties and municipalities, the townships of this state do the hard work, they do a lot of hard work. And they've been hamstrung by the state of Wisconsin," Evers said.
At the same time, Evers says Republicans have made public safety a focal point of many local elections.
"If you want a more robust police force, if you want better violence prevention programs, that's where the money comes from," Evers said. "They should have increased shared revenue when they were in office. That’s the bottom line. They could have and they didn’t."
Evers said that the situation is even more frustrating since the state of Wisconsin started the year with a balanced budget and a surplus of nearly $4 billion.
'We did the right thing'
And because Thursday's event landed two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Evers took the opportunity to reflect on his administration's response.
Evers said he stands behind his decisions to follow the science, declare COVID-19 a health emergency and shut down the state.
"At the end of the day, they were the right decisions to make for our state," Evers said. "This is a disease that has cost 12,000 Wisconsinites their lives. And so we did the right thing."
Speaking to a mostly unmasked audience, Evers said we have gotten to a place where we’re finally living with the virus because we made hard sacrifices.
"We saved lives," he said.
Still, Evers acknowledged the long road to recovery that is still ahead, adding that one of the places that will need the most support is public schools, where students are struggling to catch up and teachers are burned out.
"It’s not something that we can just assume is going to happen by itself. There’s been time that’s been lost and when we have kids that are struggling mightily academically and otherwise, we need the resources, and we frankly need even more resources to make that happen," Evers said.
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