By SCOTT BAUER and IVAN MORENO
PEWAUKEE, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday he’s considering at least one partial veto of bills Republican lawmakers approved in a lame-duck session that would cut into the powers of the Democrat who defeated him.
But he also downplayed concerns over what the Legislature approved, voicing support for some of the most consequential changes. Among them is a limitation on early voting to no more than two weeks before an election.
“For all this hype and hysteria — much of which I think is driven by fundraising for political purposes — the bottom line is there is not a fundamental shift in powers, no matter what happens with this legislation,” Walker told reporters in Pewaukee following an event celebrating small businesses. “Read it. Just read it. There is not a fundamental shift out there.”
The Republican power play in Wisconsin comes as Michigan Republicans consider similar moves against incoming Democrats in that state. North Carolina lawmakers took similar steps two years ago, and court challenges are ongoing.
Walker did not say what specifically he may veto, but he has been facing bipartisan calls — including from former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum — to strike down everything.
Earlier Tuesday, Walker praised the measures in a lengthy Facebook post where he stressed incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would still have broad powers unaffected by bills passed in the lame-duck session.
“Let’s set the record straight — the new governor will still have some of the strongest powers of any governor in the nation if these bills become law,” Walker wrote.
Evers said over the weekend that he had made a personal plea to Walker to veto the bills but that the governor was noncommittal. Evers and other Democrats are weighing lawsuits to block some of the measures.
“The people of Wisconsin demanded a change on (Election Day),” Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said. “Governor Walker knows this and needs to decide whether he wants the final act of his legacy to be overriding the will of the people.”
The bills in Wisconsin would limit early voting to no more than two weeks before an election; shield the state’s job-creation agency from Evers’ control until September; limit his ability to enact administrative rules; block Evers from withdrawing Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act; and weaken powers of incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Walker voiced support for early voting, but only if it’s the same amount of time everywhere in the state. Wisconsin’s two largest cities of Milwaukee and Madison, which are also overwhelmingly Democratic, held early voting hours up to several weeks longer than many other smaller communities with fewer people.
“The idea that in some communities it’s a couple weeks and in other communities it’s twice or three times as long, I think is a legitimate concern that people who live in communities where they’re not able to afford to do longer early voting,” Walker told reporters.
He noted in the Facebook post that the new governor’s broad veto power, including a line-item veto on budget bills, remains unchanged. Walker also highlighted the governor’s ability to appoint members of his Cabinet and other positions, including judges, district attorneys and sheriffs. And, Walker said the governor’s ability to present a two-year state budget and pardon convicted felons — something Walker has never done over his eight years in office — would remain unchanged.
Walker, in the Facebook post, cited his support for portions of the bills including requiring a report on anyone pardoned by the governor; requiring all money obtained from lawsuit settlements to be deposited in the state’s general fund; and requiring legislative approval when the governor seeks a federal waiver related to Medicaid or other health care programs.
Walker was also on the defensive over the weekend in the face of Republicans, including the former governor McCallum, GOP donor Sheldon Lubar and conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, saying Walker’s legacy will be tarnished if he signs the bills.
Walker issued 21 tweets on Saturday each beginning with “OUR LEGACY” where he spelled out his accomplishments in office, such as eliminating the state property tax and cutting college tuition.
The bills will be automatically sent to Walker by Dec. 20 if he doesn’t request them from the Legislature sooner. Walker hasn’t responded to questions about whether and when he will call for the bills before Dec. 20. Once he has them, he has six days not counting Sunday to sign or veto them.