Evers urges compromise

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, right, is sworn in by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack as Kathy Evers watches during the inauguration ceremony at the state Capitol, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Newly sworn-in Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called for a rejection of “the tired politics of the past” in his inauguration speech Monday, urging lawmakers to find bipartisan solutions to the biggest issues facing the state.

Evers, the state superintendent of schools since 2009, took over for Republican Scott Walker and faces a Republican-controlled Legislature that will oppose many of his biggest priorities. Republican legislative leaders, also speaking on inauguration day, echoed Evers’ call for bipartisanship but said they wouldn’t back down in the face of a new Democratic governor.

“We must turn the page on the tired politics of the past, we must lead by example,” Evers said during his inauguration address in the rotunda of the state Capitol. “It’s time to remake and repair our state and reclaim our better history. The people of Wisconsin demanded a change this November, and that change is coming.”

Evers called for transcending divisiveness.

“May we have courage in our conscience,” Evers said. “And may we be willing to do what’s best for the next generation rather than the next election.”

Evers’ ascendance as governor marks a new era in Wisconsin politics, ending eight years of Republican dominance. It also marks the first time since 1986 that all constitutional officers are Democrats.

Evers called for a return to the values of kindness, respect and civility, and he urged Republicans and Democrats to set aside party allegiances to work for a greater good. While some have said divided government is a recipe for gridlock, Evers called for compromise.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said some may expect the Assembly to “veer into the left lane” now that Evers is governor, but the body will have to move down the center and Evers won’t “drive the car alone.”

“I promise you over the next two years, we will not let government expand at the expense of your freedoms,” Vos said.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters that he opposes Evers’ call to raise the minimum wage. But he’s also warning GOP senators to think twice before pursuing bills on topics like abortions and “some Second Amendment stuff” that they know Evers won’t sign into law.

Evers emphasized his campaign priorities, including fully funding public schools “at every level” from pre-kindergarten through college; making health care more affordable and accessible; and improving the conditions of Wisconsin’s roads.

Evers on Monday signed an executive order requiring state agencies to develop and implement policies preventing discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The move on his first day in office was praised by Fair Wisconsin director Megin McDonell who said it “modernizes our state’s internal policies to make sure Wisconsin government employees are judged solely on their job performance, not who they are or who they love.”

This marks the first time since 2006, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor, that the entire Legislature is controlled by the opposite party of the governor.

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