Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Robin Vos

Wisconsin’s Republicans should advance bold budget

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

As Evers begins his second term as governor, we have learned a few things about his character that should inform the budget process. First, Evers is a leftist ideologue. His worldview does not allow for compromise as evidenced by his immediate rejection of any olive branches. Second, he is untrustworthy. Remember that this is the same bloke who secretly recorded conversations with Republicans and released the recordings to the media for political gain. Third, Evers is not above taking credit for the work of others when it gives him political advantage. Evers ran on the fact that he signed a tax cut even though he opposed it every step of the way. Knowing Evers’ character and style of governing, legislative Republicans should take a bold, positive approach that seizes the initiative.


Republicans must begin by forcing meaningful accountability for education. As previously documented in in this column, the performance of the state’s government schools is abysmal and getting worse. Parents know it. Kids know it. Teachers know it. Evers’ unwavering support for a system that is systemically racist and broken is a travesty. Republicans must shift the discussion from funding (schools are already overfunded) to accountability. Wisconsinites have a strong tradition of investing in education and our schools should be held accountable to deliver a quality education for kids with that investment. Many of them do not. Accountability is sorely lacking in our government schools. The Legislature should use their power of the purse to force it.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste before Thanksgiving:

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.


I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.


In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.


What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.


Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.


Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

Speaker Vos Suggests That Wisconsin Enforce Job Search Requirements for Unemployment

If you don’t show up for a scheduled interview, can it really be said that you are “looking for work?” No, it can’t. And no, the taxpayers should not be paying for people who refuse to make even the most minimal effort to be gainfully employed.

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin should get tougher on unemployed people who apply for jobs to meet work search requirements but then skip out on the interview, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Wednesday.




Vos, the owner of a food packaging business, said during the pandemic that he was fearful he would go bankrupt. Now Vos said he’s also battling worker shortage problems and is offering gift cards to employees who show up to work on time five days a week.


Vos, in a back and forth with a business owner who described job applicants skipping out on interviews, questioned whether Wisconsin should do more to combat that.


“It seems like in Wisconsin we don’t do a very good job to report a no-show for an interview and doing something about it,” Vos said.

Republican legislative leaders, along with the state chamber of commerce, trade groups and local economic development groups, are advocating for the state Legislature to repeal a $300 unemployment supplement and other enhancement programs enacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Assembly returns to work in person

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. It begs the question: when will any of us go back to a relative normal? Here’s a part:

For those who decry the decline of consensus and collaboration in our elected bodies, making them virtual will only make it worse. Consider the people debating politics on social media as they retreat into their information silos and ideological fortresses and imagine them writing legislation that will govern your life. The results would be predictably bad. Some things just have to be done in person.


Furthermore, let us not pretend that any but the tiniest minority of our representatives are actually isolating at home. While the Democrats insist on doing their jobs virtually, most of them are continuing to go shopping, eat at restaurants, meet with friends and colleagues, spend time with their extended families, work in their businesses, and generally go about living their lives. They might be wearing masks and keeping their distance, but they are going about their lives like millions of other Wisconsinites. Their insistence on doing their jobs as elected representatives virtually is conveniently selective.


In his letter imploring Speaker Vos to keep the Assembly virtual, Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz conveniently neglects to provide any standard by which he and his colleagues would willingly attend in person. Presumably, the Democrats want to do their jobs virtually in perpetuity — or at least until they no longer need to posture that COVID19 is more dangerous than it is.

Republicans Prefer Regional Approach

Again… too complicated and there’s no way that the politicians in Madison can micromanage every business and every scenario in Wisconsin. Just open the state. If you truly trust the people and businesses, then trust them.

During the event, the Speaker reiterated his party’s support for a more regional approach to restrictions on businesses and people.

“Let’s start to turn the dial, as opposed to treating every part of the state like it is Milwaukee,” he said. “Because if we wait for Milwaukee and Brown County to be the indicator, it’s going to be a long time potentially before Wisconsin can open up.”

Vos also said he supports including more specific phases for restaurants reopening, including possible guidelines for when they could offer outdoor seating and benchmarks for reaching different percentages of indoor capacity.

He also urged a move away from a list of so-called “essential businesses” that are allowed to be open, while others are not.

“I don’t understand how you can go and get a key made at Walmart or buy flowers for Mother’s Day, but somehow if you would go to the flower shop or the key shop, that would be a major threat to public health,” Vos said.

He said he trusts people and businesses to take the appropriate health precautions.

GOP Leaders Respond to Evers’ Order

I watched all but the very end of the Q&A of the governor’s press conference. It was a mess. No details. No definition of “essential” businesses. No reason for the change of policy. Evers admitted that he hadn’t even spoken to the legislative leaders. Several times the governor’s legal counsel jumped in to answer on behalf of the governor. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to hear from my actual elected governor on these things. Overall, I was not left with any sense of comfort that the people now micromanaging our lives are competent enough to be doing so.

In any case, it appears that the GOP leadership is pushing back a little, but I want more than better communication from our governor. I want competent decision-making that takes into account all stakeholders’ interests and protects out civil liberties.

“The governor’s announcement has created mass amounts of confusion. For days, Governor Evers took a measured approach and reassured business owners that a shelter-in-place order may not be necessary. Legislative leaders even complimented him for it. The governor’s sudden change of course and lack of specific guidance have increased the level of uncertainty and anxiety in our state. The people of Wisconsin deserve clear communications during a public health emergency.

“There also needs to be a better understanding as to why the decisions are being made, because of the impact on the economy, businesses and residents of the state.

“It appears at the end of the governor’s press conference, there are more questions than answers. We would ask the governor to answer the following questions for the people of Wisconsin:

  • What are the metrics that this decision is based on?
  • What is considered an essential and non-essential business? How is that being determined?
  • What changes need to happen for the order to be lifted?

“The governor’s executive order came as a surprise to the legislature. It was a complete reversal from his repeated assurances. It should be noted that legislative leaders have asked on a daily basis whether or not this was the direction the governor was headed, and we were told it was not.

“We all want what’s best for Wisconsin. We want people to stay safe and follow CDC guidelines. We would ask the governor to do a better job communicating to the people of Wisconsin.”

Vos Grapples with Paralyzed Representative

Interesting points.

The Republican leader of the state Assembly said he won’t let a Democratic lawmaker who’s paralyzed from the chest down call into meetings and slammed him for “political grandstanding” on the issue.

But Speaker Robin Vos wrote in a letter to Rep. Jimmy Anderson Thursday he would seek to make a videographer available for public committee hearings and consider letting members vote via paper ballot rather than in-person.

Anderson, of Fitchburg, has sought to be able to phone into committee gatherings, though chamber rules prohibit the practice, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week. Vos, R-Rochester, told the publication he didn’t want to change Assembly policy in that arena.

In his letter, Vos wrote he has “always been opposed to a call-in option” for committee hearings because they tend to result in “disruptive, ineffective meetings,” and it is disrespectful for other attendees who come to give in-person testimony.

Vos’ letter also called out Anderson for “political grandstanding” on the issue by going to the media rather than taking his request for phone accommodations to his office, committee leadership and others.

Let’s be clear… Anderson is grandstanding. He voted for the Assembly rules to disallow people from phoning into hearings. That being clear, the issue itself poses some interesting questions.

In our modern age, private businesses have been using audio and video collaboration technology for years. The Assembly could certainly do the same thing. The question is, should they? A legislative body is not the same as a private business. Are the people denied access to their elected officials if the elected official is not physically there? Can an elected official properly hear from the citizens who attend a meeting when they aren’t there? Can the elected official see the body language of the audience, clearly hear what the people are saying? Is there a duty for the elected official to be there to be available in the hall before and after the meeting, look a constituent in the eye, etc.?

Other elected bodies in Wisconsin already allow elected officials to attend meetings remotely. In West Bend, one of the school board members regularly attends meetings remotely. Is it right? Maybe. For the people who try to grab a minute with their elected official after the meeting, it doesn’t work.

I lean on the side of Vos on this one. While remote attendance is acceptable in a business setting, the people have a right to have access to their elected officials. And if people are permitted to attend remotely for health reasons, that opens the door to people abusing the process and hiding from heated meetings.

Governor Evers Considers Budget

Frankly, I hope Evers vetoes the entire thing.

Evers received the budget on Friday. He has until July 5 to decide what to do.

The Journal Times asked Evers’ office about specific provisions in the budget regarding transportation and education, along with several Racine County-centered provisions. Evers’ office did not specifically respond.

Evers’ office stated that the governor’s “team is reviewing the Legislature’s changes to the budget, and the governor looks forward to receiving the biennial budget bill as soon possible.”

The worst case scenario is that Evers vetoes out the few good things in this budget, like the tax cut, and leave the rest of the crap (massive spending increases, fee increases, etc.) in place. Wisconsin would be better off if Evers vetoes the whole thing and we revert to the previous budget. And then, perhaps, the Republicans will realize that their duty is to their constituents and not Evers and the Madison swamp.


One more thing… this is a big part of the problem:

“The reality is he’s the governor for four years, so you can either choose to argue 24/7, or set aside things that would cause arguments and focus on the things where you can hopefully find that middle ground,” Vos said.

What an incorrect vision of the job of the opposition leader. If Speaker Vos is just going to lead the Republicans to “set aside things that would cause arguments,” then what is the point? The entire point of having more than one party is that they DISAGREE and ARGUE about it. If Vos is just going to do his job with the goal of avoiding arguments, then he is the wrong person for the job.


Gas Tax Increase DOA

This would be welcome news indeed.

MADISON, Wis. — A gas tax hike now appears to be dead on arrival. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos apparently put the final nail in the gasoline tax increase earlier this week, telling a group of conservatives an increase to the state’s gas tax to fund Wisconsin’s transportation projects is off the table.

Speaker Vos Agrees with School Funding Increase


One of the biggest parts of the proposed budget covers education. Evers is proposing a large increase in spending for education, to the tune of about $1.4 billion, including roughly $600 million on special education.

Vos called the increase in education spending a “laudable goal” and believes there is some room for compromise.

“That is a huge increase,” Vos said. “I worry that if we only funded special ed or all the K4 education, you might not have enough money for the university system, raises for public employees, corrections, so I am confident we are going to do an increase for public schools, I just don’t know if we can do it at the level Gov. Evers proposed.”

So we are back to deciding HOW MUCH to increase government spending instead of even thinking about REDUCING spending. To throw more money into the education system that has declining enrollment without, at the very least, insisting on better outcomes for our children is just pure waste. It does nothing to help kids or the state, but it makes politicians feel good about themselves. In fact, it hurts the state by continuing to increase our cost of government and encourage people and families to relocate to states that are more affordable.

C’mon, Vos… Evers’ voters didn’t elect your majority caucus. Dance with who brung you.

Vos Responds to Evers’ Budget


Wisconsin has a significant amount of new money coming into the state and a surplus from the current budget. The problem isn’t that the state doesn’t have the revenue. The problem with Governor Evers’ budget is that it spends too much. It spends way more than Wisconsin can afford by increasing spending by $6 billion. That translates into an increase in spending of about $1,071 for every man, woman and child in Wisconsin. His budget also raises property taxes to the highest level in nearly a decade. This is clearly a budget that is not based on the reality that Wisconsin families see every day. It’s a liberal wish list.

Whether or not this is a serious or successful budget proposal depends on what Evers was trying to accomplish. If he wanted to actually advance some policies and initiatives that were important to him through a Republican legislature, then this is a total failure. All it did is tick off the very legislators whose support he will need to advance his ideas. His proposal is so far to the left that it does not have any room for compromise.

If Evers was trying to write a liberal manifesto to appease his rabid liberal base, then mission accomplished. It’s a masterpiece. I guess we’ll see how loyal that base remains when Evers fails to move the liberal ball a single yard because he’s terrible at his job.

Legislative Leaders Call for Resignations


Republican leaders of the state Legislature are urging the chief staffers of the state Elections and Ethics commissions to resign, citing “widespread concerns over partisan influence remaining” from their predecessor, the former Government Accountability Board.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald made the calls in separate letters to Mike Haas, administrator of the Elections Commission, and Brian Bell, administrator of the Ethics Commission.

“Due to past errors in judgment by leadership and staff at the recently disbanded Government Accountability Board, there are still widespread concerns over partisan influence remaining at the top of” the commissions, Vos and Fitzgerald wrote in letters to Haas and Bell, released by the lawmakers late Thursday. “You have lost the confidence of our caucuses to be an impartial administrator.

“Therefore, we believe that it would be appropriate at this time for you to tender your resignation.”

Vos Apologizes

Sort of. He apologizes for using the word, “terrorist,” but not for the statement in general.

Madison…Everyday, there are brave men and women who put their lives on the line across the globe to stop terrorists, and for them, I am extremely grateful.  As Speaker, I have strived to increase the civility within the legislature. I now regret using the word terrorist because it goes against the guidelines I’ve set for our chamber, and myself. For that, I apologize.

I continue to be concerned, however, that the actions of a few Senators, who cannot work with their colleagues in their own caucus, could disrupt progress on important legislation for the people of Wisconsin.

Vos Calls Fellow Republicans “Terrorists”

It might be time for new leadership in the Assembly. First, he fought tooth and nail for a tax increase and now he’s calling fellow Republicans “terrorists?” What kind of Republican leader is that?

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is still smarting from last month’s rocky resolution to the state budget debate, calling three Republican senators who struck a deal with Gov. Scott Walker to support the budget “terrorists.”

“That’s what they are,” Vos said in a WISN-TV interview that aired Sunday. “You don’t hold somebody hostage for your own personal needs.”

Vos was addressing Sens. Chris Kapenga of Delafield, Steve Nass of Whitewater and Duey Stroebel of Saukville, three hard-line conservative GOP senators who appeared ready to block passage of the 2017-19 budget last month, before striking a last-minute deal with Walker to pass it.

Vos Makes Empty Threat


“We’re not going to be held hostage to individuals who have some kind of a wish list,” Vos said.

The state Assembly began debating the budget shortly after noon Wednesday. A vote is expected by the late-night hours.

Senate Republicans, who have yet to take up the budget, are expected to meet Wednesday to discuss it. Fitzgerald said Tuesday that he hopes the meeting will produce agreement among his members on changes to the budget that can be sent to the Assembly, in the form of an amendment, before it votes on it. That would prevent the Assembly from having to approve the budget a second time after a Senate vote, which has not yet been scheduled.

Vos laid down the gauntlet at Wednesday’s press conference, saying he won’t revisit the budget after Wednesday.

“Once we vote for the budget today, we are done with the budget process,” Vos said.

Ummm… if the Senate votes for a different version of the budget, it goes to conference and then both houses have to vote on it again. It’s not really up to Vos unless he is saying that the Assembly is willing to not ever pass a budget.


Vos Accepts Reality of Gas Tax Increase

Good. He’s seeing the light.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Wednesday said it’s unlikely that lawmakers will increase the state’s gas tax to help erase a projected $1 billion deficit in funding road projects.

Vos, R-Rochester, and Gov. Scott Walker have been at odds over how to pay for roads, including raising the state’s gas tax.

But at a forum Wednesday, when asked by an audience member if he would raise her gas tax so she could help pay for road fixes, Vos said, “Probably not.” That was a signal that Assembly Republicans would stop calling for Walker to consider the idea.

“If you are a card player, I have a pair of twos, the governor has a straight and I have to draw three of a kind to win. Now it’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t bet on me,” he told an audience at a luncheon hosted by

Vos Tells Conservatives to Get More Support

Vos has this exactly backward.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said supporters of controversial proposals like allowing concealed carry on college campuses need to build broad public support for such measures before drafting legislation.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the legislators who have an idea to spread across the state, find people to support it, get groundswells of support to bring an idea here not just convince a bunch of people in our caucus to pass a bill without making sure the public is where we are,” said Vos on Tuesday. “So that’s what I’m going to try to a better job of this session.”

We implement government for ourselves in order to preserve our rights. It is our right to keep and bear arms. Period. Anywhere. Anytime. That right, like all rights, can and should be curtailed when there is a vital public interest to do so, but it is incumbent on the people who want to restrict our rights to make the argument to do so.

The fact is that our right to keep and bear arms on campus has been unjustifiably restricted for far too long. Passing campus carry is about returning government to its intended, restricted, state.

Vos Punishes Colleague

This is unacceptable.

Republican State Representative Andre Jacque tells Media Trackers that he has been stripped of his Assembly committee chairmanships by Speaker Robin Vos as punishment for holding a hearing on prevailing wage reform legislation in the Labor Committee this past legislative session. A news release issued by Vos’ office Wednesday afternoon showed that Jacque was the only committee chair not to retain a chairmanship for the next session. Jacque is the only non-freshmen member without a committee chairmanship. Jacque told Media Trackers Vos made no secret of the reason why:

Repealing prevailing wage was, and is, overwhelmingly supported by the Republican base. Vos did not want any repeal in the last session and fought it all the way. That’s why the repeal that was eventually passed was watered down to not include state projects. Vos doesn’t support repeal for the same reason he’s been passionately advocating for a gas tax increase – he’s in the pocket of the Road Builders Lobby.

Speaker Vos Accuses Senators of Fear Mongering as He Fear Mongers

Is it “fear mongers” or “fears monger?” Mongers fear? Whatever. This is kind of funny:

Story #1:

“While it’s laudable that Senators Kapenga and Stroebel say they’re relying on their CPA and business experience to analyze what they describe as the transportation fund’s spending problem, they’re deliberately ignoring the other side of the balance sheet in favor of politics and fear mongering,” said Speaker Vos.

Story #2:

“Look at this! Holy cow! I can`t even imagine what it would be like to be sitting in there,” Vos said in the video.

The video released Monday, December 5th shows Vos bouncing along while lying down in a stretcher in the back of Burlington Rescue Squad ambulance. Vos said he rode in the back of the ambulance at the request of his cousin, an EMS worker in Burlington. He said bad roads impact patient care.

So talking about the gas tax increase that Vos wants is fear mongering but a hokey sensational video dramatizing a bumpy ambulance ride is just providing information, right?

Vos Accuses Walker of Being “Disingenuous”

As I mentioned a few days ago, Walker has successfully isolated Vos and the Assembly leadership on the issue of transportation funding, and Speaker Vos is reacting in a predictable fashion.

“We have had multiple caucus discussions on this topic,” Vos told reporters after a WisPolitics luncheon with Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. “The governor has the luxury of looking in the mirror and having a discussion with himself on any topic, because he doesn’t have to get consensus. He’s the governor. My job as the speaker is to generate consensus among 62 other people, and I think we’ve done that.”


Vos called that suggestion “disingenuous” on Thursday, arguing that the governor has the ability to direct the Department of Transportation to assemble a proposal that meets specific criteria, while a legislative leader like Vos lacks matching resources.

That’s a bit of a silly claim. If the legislature has the resources to create a budget with tax increases, it sure has the resources to create one without tax increases. At some point, the legislature is going to have to propose, debate, and pass a budget that includes transportation. Is Vos claiming that he lacks the resources for that?

Methinks Vos should take a bit of his own advise in this last quote:

“I think there’s enough blame to go around,” Vos countered. “It’s pretty hard to reach your hand out and say let’s work together while at the same time you’re saying how much you suck.”



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