Gov. Roy Cooper could change the dynamics of next year’s legislative elections and create a legislative legacy if he does one thing; call Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and follow his example on the state budget.
On July 8, Evers, the Democrat governor of the Badger State signed the Republican state legislature’s two-year budget.
“Gov. Tony Evers today signed the 2021-23 biennial budget, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 58, providing one of the largest tax cuts in Wisconsin state history and delivering on his 2018 campaign promise to cut tax taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent,” the governor’s office wrote in a press release announcing the signing. “Gov. Evers, former public-school teacher and state superintendent of public instruction, also announced more than $100 million in new funding for public schools on top of investments included in the biennial budget.”
Evers is running for re-election in 2022 and plans to campaign on the budget cut that was advocated and written by Republicans.
“I made a promise when I ran for governor—I promised I would cut taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent,” Evers said in the press release. “Today, I am keeping my word… This morning, I’m providing more than $2 billion in tax relief and cutting taxes for middle-class families at a time when our economy and families need it most.”
Wisconsin political observers are crediting the move for improving the Evers’ political standing.
“Evers has already shown he plans to campaign on the budget’s more than $2 billion tax cut, while Republicans have pushed back on the governor claiming the cut — which they proposed — as his accomplishment,“ Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
Mordecai Lee, former Democratic state lawmaker and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said he believes voters will give the governor credit for the tax cut.
“I think there’s no doubt that, in terms of messaging — because, after all, politics is about spin, it’s about impressions, it’s not about substance — I think the governor wins,” Lee said during an interview with PBS Wisconsin’s “Here & Now.”
Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison, agreed the tax cut will likely play to the governor’s advantage during campaign season.
“He will not be easy to paint as a tax-and-spend liberal,” Burden told Wisconsin Public Radio. “I think (the tax cut) takes the edge off some of the criticism that Republicans would use.”
Carolina Journal recently opined about the messaging challenges for Democrats, especially North Carolina Democrats.
Cooper can change this dynamic by signing the GOP budget when it hits his desk in a few weeks. In doing so, he would finally sign a teacher pay increase instead of blocking it. He could point to increased spending and tax cuts.
Right now, he could signal his support and give Democrat legislators a chance to join and vote for a budget that, if enacted, would result in many Democrat priorities being funded including teacher and state worker raises, investments in Covid-19 relief, school construction, significant capital and infrastructure projects and investments in clean water and air.
Democrats could campaign in 2022 on delivering for North Carolina citizens. They can bring home some important projects back home. Of course, not all Democrat legislators and activists will agree. However, the Governor and budget-supporting Democrats have a simple answer.
They should view this as a crossroads: on one side, sign a GOP budget which spends more money on Democrats’ priorities. Alternatively, they could block a budget from going into law which results in less spending for things they care about.
These options should be considered carefully. If the GOP have a strong election in 2022, they could have a supermajority and enact whatever they want, leaving Democrats empty-handed.
Even at this late date Cooper could get some modest changes in the final GOP budget if he agrees to sign it.
Cooper will not take the advice from me, but he should take the advice of the Wisconsin governor. Here is his contact information, Roy.