Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Evers Vetoes GOP Bills at Record Rate

In one year he vetoed 32% of all legislative bills, compared to 3.7% for average governor.

By - Apr 29th, 2024 10:03 am
Gov. Tony Evers

Gov. Tony Evers. Photo by Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed 73 bills passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and rewrote four spending bills with partial vetoes, over the last two years. No governor’s veto has been overridden by lawmakers since 1985, and that won’t change.

Since taking office in January 2019, Evers has vetoed 219 bills outright and seven others partially – vetoes denounced by Republicans who passed those bills.

An Evers aide said he vetoed 126 bills and one other partially – the state budget – in the 2021-22 legislative session and 20 bills, and two others in part, in the 2019-20 session.

Midway through his second four-year term, Evers can veto Republicans’ bills with impunity for several reasons.

First, the Democrat’s job approval rating with registered voters, as measured by Marquette University Law School polls, has been 52% and 53% for three polls – significantly higher than the Legislature’s 34% approval rating in Marquette’s latest poll.

Second, although there are 22 Senate Republicans – the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto – that is not true in the 99-member Assembly, where Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to introduce themselves to and impress voters in new legislative districts before Nov. 5 elections.

No Republican Assembly member wants to return to the Capitol until January.

First-term Republican Rep. Jerry O’Connor scored some of the governor’s vetoes this way: He labeled nine as “election integrity” bills; eight as natural resources or “gun rights” bills; seven bills each for these three issues: School Choice, “jobs and workforce” or “medical/health care”; and six bills each that dealt with tax cuts and “diversity, equity or inclusion” or “woke” issues.

“This governor continues to set records for the number of vetoes he executes,” said O’Connor, who listed each of the governor’s 73 vetoes this session.

Evers “overrides the elected legislators who represent the majority of Wisconsin voters,” O’Connor charged. “He uses the veto pen and executive orders in a dictatorial style. This is not how government should work. We need change in Madison.”

Consider how Evers justified his recent veto of one Republican bill, sponsored by Sen. Cory Tomczyk and Rep. Clint Moses, that would have eliminated the requirement that employers obtain a work permit to hire 14- and 15-year-olds. The veto came despite a widespread worker shortage statewide. But aides to Evers noted a U.S. Department of Labor report found that the number of minors working in violation of child-labor laws doubled between 2021 and 2023 and that many of them worked in “hazardous or dangerous” jobs.

Announcing his veto at a union event, Evers noted that he proclaimed 2024 the Year of the Worker because “real, meaningful and long-term solutions” are needed to address the workforce shortage.

“In April last year, our state unemployment rate hit a historic-low of 2.4%. Last year, Wisconsin had the all-time lowest number of unemployed workers ever in modern history. And our state’s labor force participation rate also consistently remained above the national average throughout the year,” Evers said, adding:

“Wisconsinites work hard… [My] comprehensive workforce plan would invest in child care statewide to prevent the industry’s looming collapse, expand paid family leave to help us compete with our neighboring states, invest in our higher education institutions, and bolster high-demand industries. Unfortunately, Republicans have rejected my plan.”

But Evers dismissed the bill to eliminate work permits for 14- and 15-year-olds as no “serious proposal to address generational statewide issues” and “wrong for our kids and wrong for our state.”

At an Assembly committee meeting on his bill last year, Moses noted that Wisconsin abolished work permits for 16- and 17-year-olds in 2017. That got Wisconsin “about halfway there,” he added.

“If a teenager wants a job, they should be able to apply to a job and start working,” Moses told the committee. “They shouldn’t need approval by their school and state to obtain a job.”

But, foreshadowing the governor’s veto, Democratic Rep. Francesca Hong said the bill should be killed. The change is “an absolute erosion of our willingness to help protect kids,” Hong said.

A 2023 report by the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau confirmed that Evers vetoes at a record-setting pace. Its report showed that in the 1927–28 session, Governor Fred Zimmerman vetoed 90 bills, the previous high, while Evers, in the 2021-22 session, vetoed 126 bills, an all-time record.

Evers’ record looks even more remarkable compared to the average governor. “While Wisconsin governors have historically vetoed an average of 3.7% of bills passed by the Legislature, Gov. Evers vetoed 32% of bills passed by the 2021–22 legislature,” the report noted. “No governor has come close to matching this.”

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

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3 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Evers Vetoes GOP Bills at Record Rate”

  1. mpbehar says:

    Thank goodness for Governor Tony Evers!!

  2. Mingus says:

    Republicans consistently for the last decade have only promoted partisan bills which pander to the special interests and the Party’s billionaire donors. If we did not have a Democratic Governor and an Assembly where the Republicans do not have a 2/3 majority, Wisconsin would become a State like Texas or Florida where all of the bizarre Republican conspiracies are playing out.

  3. TosaGramps1315 says:

    I feel Republicans pass and send these silly bills to the Governor’s desk hoping he vetoes them so they have more to whine about, and they have more negative ad talking points for the next gubernatorial election cycle. They whine that Evers vetoing is not the way to govern. Well, neither is their childish approach.
    And Jerry O’Connor’s claim that Evers “overrides the elected legislators who represent the majority of Wisconsin voters” is flat-out false. Because Republicans have a majority in the state Senate does not equate to there being more Republican voters in the state. Using his logic, all Wisconsin voters are Democrats because the Governor is a Democrat.
    Does he think we are idiots???

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