Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Republicans Dismiss 13th Call for Special Session

In 5 years, Legislators have shot down every such call by the governor, with one exception.

By - Aug 14th, 2023 12:11 pm
Tony Evers, Robin Vos, Devin LeMahieu

Tony Evers, Robin Vos, Devin LeMahieu.

Call it the Special Session Dance.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers calls a special session of the Legislature, which governors have the authority to do, to deal with a specific problem. But Republicans who control the Legislature have no obligation to take any action in response to that call. When they don’t respond, Evers then criticizes the Republicans’ inaction.

So, on Sept. 20, Republicans will ignore the 13th special-session call issued by Evers since he took office in January 2019. Two or three legislative leaders in each house will again bang a gavel to acknowledge the governor’s special-session request, then immediately adjourn it.

Last week, Evers asked legislators to spend $1 billion of the record surplus “to prevent a looming collapse of the state’s child care industry and ensure child care is affordable and accessible… expand paid family leave, invest in higher education to help educate, train, retain, and recruit talented workers, and support targeted solutions to workforce challenges in high-need areas” like health care and education.

Evers said the greatest need is $365 million for child care, because Wisconsin — with a record low unemployment rate of 2.4% — faces the potential closing of 2,110 child-care programs that now provide care for 87,000 kids and jobs for 4,880 workers.

Evers first asked for those spending programs in his proposed 2023-25 budget in February. Republicans rejected them then, and they will again.

Republican leaders are angry that Evers vetoed most of a $3.3-billion income tax cut in July. Giving Evers a second chance to sign an income tax cut will be their top priority, they promised.

“Instead of returning the state surplus to hardworking Wisconsinites, Gov. Evers used his veto pen to raise taxes on every Wisconsinite making more than $27,630,” said Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu. “Now he wants to use that same surplus to grow government and create new entitlement programs. The best way to fix Wisconsin’s workforce shortage is to create a competitive tax structure that will attract talent and private investment to our state.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos agreed: “Our priority when we return in September will be to give Gov. Evers another chance to fix his mistake by signing a middle-class tax cut.”

“Instead of returning the surplus to the taxpayers, Evers wants to go on a $1 billion spending spree by expanding government and creating new unneeded programs,” added Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August.

What other issues have gotten the Special Session Dance?

Evers issued his first special-session call on Oct. 21, 2019, asking that legislators respond to gun violence. He wanted universal background checks before gun sales and a “red flag” law allowing judges to order those considered dangerous to temporarily give up their weapons. Republicans dismissed that session weeks later.

On April 3, 2020, as the world was reeling from the first waves of sickness and COVID-19 deaths, Evers asked the Legislature to meet the next day to cancel in-person voting in the April 7 spring election. Evers asked for an all-mail election, with a ballot sent to every registered voter who had not already requested one by May 19, and moving the deadline for those ballots to be received and counted to May 26.

Republicans opposed that. In-person voting was held on April 7, although record numbers of voters cast absentee ballots.

In his special-session call on Feb. 16, 2022, Evers asked Republican leaders to send a $150 check to every taxpayer, calling it the best use of the budget surplus.

Republican leaders also ignored that request, just as they did the governor’s May 19, 2021, call to expand Medicaid coverage and his July 26, 2021, call to spend $510 million more on K-12 public schools and the University of Wisconsin System.

Once, however, Republican senators did respond to an Evers special-session call. On Jan. 13, 2021, the Democrat’s special-session call asked legislators to modernize the state’s 1970s system for processing record requests for jobless benefits from workers out of work due to Covid closings. Capitol offices were swamped with angry calls about delays in getting those benefits.

On Feb. 18, 2021, Evers thanked Republican senators for responding to the Unemployment Insurance crisis. But the Special Session Dance continued, since Evers called the Senate action “not enough. but it’s at least a step in the right direction.”

Steven Walters started covering the Capitol in 1988. Contact him at

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Categories: Politics

2 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Republicans Dismiss 13th Call for Special Session”

  1. Colin says:

    Do-nothing republicans

  2. Rose Marie Hoffmann says:

    Why can’t our elected representatives work together and get things done together? We need to vote all the naysayers out of office.

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