October Legislative Update

Gubernatorial Race a Toss Up & US Sen. Johnson Widens Lead

On October 12, a new Marquette poll was released. The poll was conducted October 3rd through October 9th. 801 Wisconsin registered voters were interviewed, and 652 likely voters were interviewed. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.3% and the likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.8%. 

Regarding the gubernatorial election, incumbent Democrat Gov. Evers and pipeline construction co-owner Republican Michels remain close, with the race tightening since the September Marquette poll. Among likely voters, 47% support Democrat incumbent Evers and 46% support Republican challenger Michels. In September, it was Evers 47% and Michels 44%. Among independents, 43% support Evers and 44% Michels. Evers led among independents in September by 45% to 39%. In August, Evers led among independents by 49% to 38%. The poll was taken prior to the debate that was held Friday, October 14th.  It remains to be seen if any voters were swayed by either candidates’ debate performance.

Regarding the US Senate race, 52% of likely voters support Republican incumbent Ron Johnson and 46% support Democrat challenger Mandela Barnes. Sen. Johnson’s lead over Lt. Gov. Barnes has widened since the last Marquette poll, released a month ago.  

Regarding issues, inflation remains the top concern for voters. 68% among voters overall said there are “very concerned” about inflation. Regarding whether Wisconsin is on the right track or the wrong track, 63% of all voters interviewed said Wisconsin is off on the wrong track, while 31% say Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. In September, it was 53% wrong track, 40% right direction.  Historically, this high wrong track number is bad for incumbents at the statewide level. 

Sales Tax & Shared Revenue Increase Take Center Stage on the Campaign Trail

Gov. Evers announced this month that, if he is reelected, his 2023-25 executive budget will propose “$91.4 million to increase shared revenue, an increase of four percent in each year of the biennium over current levels, to help local governments fund essential services in counties and municipalities across the state.” He recently told the Milwaukee Press Club and Rotary Club that he feels “The State of Wisconsin has failed our municipalities, especially when it comes to Milwaukee.” Urban Milwaukee has reported that “Adjusted for inflation, the city of Milwaukee’s budget office reports Milwaukee receives $155 million less annually in shared revenue than it did in 2000.” Gov. Evers has previously proposed allowing municipalities with a population over 30,000 to impose a one-half percent local sales tax to raise additional revenue.

Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels has made crime a key part his campaign, criticizing state and local elected officials from the Democratic Party for increasing rates of violent and property crime in Wisconsin cities, particularly Milwaukee. During a news conference with the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association, which has endorsed him, Michels said that “there is not enough funding for law enforcement. There is not enough funding for the Fire Department. There is so much money in government. The (state) budget this year, $43.5 billion, that is the money that has come out of taxpayers' pockets, and the taxpayers deserve to have safe communities,” with some Milwaukee leaders seeing his comments as indicating an openness to allowing higher local sales taxes to fund local services. 

Milwaukee-area city and county leaders have called on state legislators to increase shared revenue and to allow local governments to raise more money through taxes, an idea which hasn’t enjoyed much support from Republicans in the legislature.