Tag Archives: Robin Vos

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 Wispolitics.com.

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.”

Vos Isolated on Transportation Tax Increases


Assembly Republicans have floated the idea of raising revenues for transportation work to hold down borrowing and avoid project delays, but Fitzgerald noted Thursday that Walker has committed to using his extensive veto powers to block such a move.

“You’ve got to live within the parameters of what he’s already laid out,” Fitzgerald said of Walker, adding that it would be pointless to oppose his own party’s governor. “How’s that productive? You’re going to have to work with the governor.”

One way to resolve the dispute would be to cut other taxes so the gas tax could be increased, he said. But coming up with a way to cut other taxes could prove tricky when state finances are tight.

Vos and the Assembly leadership has been saying that tax increases might be necessary. The Governor has said “no” to any tax increase for roads that isn’t offset by a tax decrease elsewhere. Now the Senate Majority Leader is standing with the Governor. Given that Vos was going to have a very difficult time getting a tax increase passed through the conservative wing of his own caucus anyway, this pretty much kills it. A tax increase will never even make it through the Senate to get to Walker’s desk to veto.

I guess we will have to live within our means – even when it comes to transportation.

UW Fails Diversity Test

As I discussed in my column a few weeks ago, universities are increasingly monolithic in the thoughts they allow to be expressed on their campuses. Speaker Robin Vos illustrates one example of the lack of diversity in the UW system over on Right Wisconsin.

Our review found roughly $2.7 million was spent on guest speakers in 2015. UW-Milwaukee spent more on speakers than any other school. Not surprisingly, a large number were easily identifiable as being liberal. The same was true with smaller schools. The largest amount paid for a single speaker was at UW-Platteville. Kathy Ober , a former professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and co-founder of the Social Justice Training Institute spoke three times for a total of $45,000. Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, was one of the highest paid speakers for an individual speech at UW-La Crosse last December . The UW System schools have invited actors, writers, musicians and even a local farmer to speak to students, each with a varying price tag to taxpayers.

What is noticeably absent in the top paid speakers to the UW System were individuals with conservative, political or social, perspectives. Within the top 50 taxpayer-funded guest speakers, we identified less than a handful of conservatives. Sure, there could be a plethora of conservatives who refused to accept any honoraria, but I doubt it.

The data suggests that when UW System officials look to invest in an invited guest, more times than not, they’re looking for a liberal-minded individual to disperse information to the young, developing minds who pay them thousands of dollars for their education.

Assembly Republicans Advance Prevailing Wage Changes

Make no mistake, this is an effort to derail an actual repeal of this ridiculous and expensive law.

The Assembly plan would significantly increase the minimum threshold for the cost of projects that are subject to prevailing wage — putting that threshold at $450,000, which Assembly Republicans said would be the second-highest of any state. The current thresholds in Wisconsin are between $48,000 and $100,000, depending on the project. The Assembly plan also would link the threshold to future increases through indexing.

The proposal would change the state’s formula for calculating prevailing wage, in an effort to address what some say are artificially high wages in rural areas. It also would carve out prevailing-wage exemptions for technical college projects, residential and agricultural projects and projects funded primarily by charitable donations.

You know, I keep hearing Vos say that he doesn’t have the votes to pass a full repeal in the Assembly, but he won’t call a vote to prove it. There are 35 co-sponsors of the bill for full repeal. They are:

Hutton, Sanfelippo, Jacque, Knodl,Kapenga, Craig, Kooyenga, Allen, August, Ballweg, Bernier, Born,Brandtjen, E. Brooks, R. Brooks, Czaja, Gannon, Jagler, Jarchow,Katsma, Kleefisch, Knudson, Kremer, Kuglitsch, Kulp, T. Larson,Neylon, J. Ott, Petersen, Schraa, Skowronski, Swearingen, Thiesfeldt,Tittl and Weatherston;


The bill needs 50 votes to pass, so assuming that all of the Democrats will vote against repeal and all of the Republican co-sponsors will vote for it, that means that Vos thinks that at least 11 of the following Republicans will vote against a full repeal:

Tyler August – Lake Geneva – 32nd (on this list in error – is a co-sponsor. He’s for full repeal!)
Dave Craig – Big Bend – 83rd
James Edming – Glen Flora – 87th
Dave Heaton – Wausau – 85th
Cody Horlacher – Mukwonago – 33rd
Terry Katsma – Oostburg – 26th
Samantha Kerkman – Randall – 61st
Joel Kitchens – Sturgeon Bay – 1st
Scott Krug – Wisconsin Rapids – 72nd
Amy Laudenbeck – Clinton – 31st
John Macco – Ledgeview – 88th
Dave Murphy – Greenville – 56th
Jeff Mursau – Crivitz – 36th
John Murtha – Baldwin – 29th
Lee Nerison – Westby – 96th
Todd Novak – Dodgeville – 51st
John Nygren – Marinette – 89th
Al Ott – Forest Junction – 3rd
Warren Petryk – Elva – 93rd
Romaine Quinn – Rice Lake – 75th
Keith Ripp – Lodi – 42nd
Jessie Rodriguez – Franklin – 21st
Mike Rohrkaste – Neenah – 55th
John Spiros – Marshfield – 86th
David Steffen – Green Bay – 4th
Jim Steineke – Kaukauna – 5th
Gary Tauchen – Bonduel – 6th
Travis Tranel – Cuba City – 49th
Nancy VanderMeer – Tomah – 70th
Tyler Vorpagel – Plymouth – 27th
And, of course, Robin Vos – Rochester – 63rd

So who are the hold outs? Let’s try to narrow it down some. Vos has claimed to be in support of full repeal, so that’s 36 votes in favor. Who else is on record? Jessie Rodriguez was elected as a conservative darling in Franklin, does she support full repeal? What about John Nygren? Scott Krug?

As Speaker, Vos won’t name names, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. Which Republican Assemblymen are preventing Vos from calling for a vote on full repeal?

Vos Going After Spending

I like the sound of this.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald say it is unlikely their caucuses would support hiking the gas tax and raised doubts significant income or property tax cuts will be forthcoming in the next budget.

Vos said Walker’s first budget got the state’s fiscal house in order, the second cut taxes and now the third can reduce the size of government.

“Now I think we take the next session to downsize government, to figure out what we actually need to pay for, pay for it and then come back two years from now and have another opportunity to reduce taxes because we’ve right-sized government to a place we can afford,” said Vos, a former Joint Finance co-chair.

Unless Wisconsin takes on more debt, we can’t sustain tax cuts without reducing spending accordingly. I like where Vos is headed. Now let’s see what, specifically, will be reduced.

Vos Weighs in on Right to Work Legislation

There’s good and bad here.

Vos expressed reservations about attempting to rush right-to-work legislation during the next session. He did say, however, that people need to show how it would benefit the state before any proposals move forward.

“If the business community wants it, if activists want it, if employers want it, they need to make the case why having right-to-work in Wisconsin is good for growing jobs, bringing more companies here, having our economy grow and thrive,” Vos said.

Vos went on to say that he would not support an exemption for trade unions as a component of right-to-work legislation.

“Either you say people have the right to join the union or you don’t. Is it worth it or not?” he said.

The good is that Vos is making it clear that Right to Work is an all or nothing proposition. It sounds like he won’t stand for carve outs and exclusions.

The bad is that Vos is laying out a framework in which the only justification for passing Right to Work is is it will demonstrably improve the economy. If evidence from other states is any guide, it might – depending on what you are measuring. Right to Work tend to have a more dynamic economy and add jobs more quickly, but it is one piece in a much larger economic puzzle. Bearing in mind that only 12% of Wisconsin’s private workforce are members of unions, Right to Work will likely have a relatively small impact on the economy. But, as I said, judging from other states, it certainly won’t hurt.

As a conservative, which Vos generally is, he should also know that the more pressing reason for Right to Work is a moral one – not an economic one. No person should be forced to pay dues to a third party group as a condition of their employment. Period. It is immoral and unnecessarily restrains the liberty of the individual. There are rare times when there is a compelling state interest to restrict individual liberty, but this is not one of them. The only beneficiaries of a closed shop state are the unions who gain more dues. The state has no compelling interest to force people to give their hard-earned money to unions any more than to any other private organization.

Let us hope that Speaker Vos chooses to accept arguments outside of the rigid framework he expressed here.

Vos Vows GAB Reform

I like where Vos’ head is at.

“I promise you that two years from now . . . the GAB will not be in the current format” Vos said. “It is dysfunctional, it is unresponsive, and it is totally undemocratic.”

Vos cited the GAB’s decision last month to release a newly redesigned ballot for the November elections. Vos’ reelection campaign and that of Senator Scott Fitzgerald filed a lawsuit over the redesigned ballot, which clerks in a majority of Wisconsin counties elected not to use. The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed over procedural issues, but Vos made it clear Tuesday that he is still bothered by the ballot redesign process, and he laid the blame squarely at the feet of GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy.

“Kevin Kennedy has to go. He needs to be gone. He is an embarrassment, and I can’t say it any more emphatically than I am right now,” Vos said. He offered few specifics on what sorts of changes he envisions for the GAB, which is charged with oversight of Wisconsin’s campaign finance, elections, ethics, and lobbying laws.