The 2017-18 Wisconsin State Legislative Session kicked off on Tuesday, January 3 with the inauguration of legislators in both the State Assembly and State Senate. All 99 members of the Assembly and 16 members of the State Senate took the oath of office.
Assembly Republicans increased their majority to 64 members, the largest GOP majority in the last 60 years. Despite the massive 64 – 35 seat majority, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) opened the session with an optimistic hope for bipartisanship. “We must put aside what we think is best for our political careers, and do what’s best for Wisconsin,” said Vos. “Instead of attacking one another and saying what shouldn’t be done, let’s work together to find what can be done.”
Vos also said he wants to focus on addressing transportation funding, reforming Wisconsin’s tax code, and updating the school funding formula. “I’m confident that we can continue to make big and bold reforms,” he said.
Similarly, the State Senate also returns with a larger Republican majority after picking up a seat in the November election. The Senate is now split 20 GOP seats to 13 Democratic.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) contrasted some of Vos’ statements, especially on reforming the school funding formula. “That doesn’t seem like something that is going to happen,” Fitzgerald said. “The reality of getting that piece of legislation through either house I think would be very difficult.”
Fitzgerald also said he welcomes a gas tax or vehicle registration increase if taxes are cut elsewhere to offset those increases. However, he indicated the caucus may disagree saying, “I just don’t have a handle on that right now, whether or not that’s palatable. I certainly have an idea that the caucus is somewhat divided on that.”
The legislature welcomes 15 new legislators in total: 11 in the Assembly and 4 in the Senate. Many replaced retired legislators, except for Representative Treig Pronschinske (R – Mondovi) and Senator Patrick Testin (R – Stevens Point) who both unseated Democratic incumbents.