MADISON (WKOW) — Governor Tony Evers’ COVID-19 address Tuesday night could have been the tipping point for a top Republican, who now says he’s willing to work with the governor on the pandemic.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he called Evers after his address and according to Vos’ spokeswoman, they’ve played phone tag. Both offices are now in communication but there’s been no set date on when they will meet.
“I think the people of Wisconsin want us to stop arguing about COVID and start working together to solve the problem,” said Vos.
This is the first sign in six months a GOP leader has reached out to the governor willing to discuss the current COVID-19 crisis as infections rage across the state.
The call for a meeting between the two comes after Evers signed an executive order strongly encouraging people, not requiring them, to stay home. He also announced he will introduce a package of COVID-19 bills in the coming days “to provide more support to Wisconsinites” but did provide any details.
“My request to him was before you introduce a whole package of bills how about we sit down and talk and see if there are things we can support,” said Vos.
It’s been months since the last time lawmakers walked the halls of the State Capitol. In April, lawmakers approved a COVID-19 relief bill aimed at addressing some of the problems caused by the pandemic but since then things have only got worse.
“Wisconsin, this is serious. This crisis is urgent,” said Evers during his first primetime address to the state.
Evers has issued restrictions such as a stay at home order, mandating masks and limiting capacity indoors in efforts to contain the spread but Republicans never agreed with his approach.
“They have actually undermined the executive’s authority to actually manage this pandemic which I think has had consequences,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh).
Over the last several months 27 News has reached out to the office of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), asking him what his plan is to address the pandemic. All of those requests for an interview were denied.
“He’s the majority leader of the Senate and he has done nothing to respond to COVID-19,” said Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley (D-Mason).
Speaker Vos says he wants to hit the “restart button” with Evers and negotiating a path forward, offering his own advice on where to start.
“I would be more than happy to do some sort of public relations campaign where we sit together like they have in other states and say, ‘hey, look, we don’t agree on a lot of things, but we agree the virus is serious, that masks work,” he said.
Vos said he’s going to talk with his colleagues on specific ideas to address the pandemic but doesn’t believe more restrictions are necessary.
As for another COVID-19 relief bill, Hintz and Vos are open to the idea but worry about the state’s finances to afford it.
“We don’t have it (money), we have to have a balanced budget,” said Hintz. “This is a role for the federal government to give the state’s the infusion (it) needs.”
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