MADISON, Wis. — The longest-serving speaker in state history will be back for another term in the Assembly come January.

Republican Robin Vos sat down for a one-on-one interview with Spectrum News 1 Political Reporter Anthony DaBruzzi to talk about what lies ahead and why he is leaving the past where it is.


Republicans look to tax cuts and savings

Both Republicans and Democrats seem open to compromise in the new year, and one of the biggest areas to find common ground will be on what to do about a projected $6.6. billion state budget surplus.

“We have the choice to either continue the arguments that happened in the past, and we are really good at that, or to kind of hit the reset button and move forward, so I'm choosing the second option,” Vos explained. “We want to hit the reset button and focus on the future, not argue about the past.”

Gov. Evers signs the GOP-authored 2021-23 state budget. (Spectrum News 1/Anthony DaBruzzi)

For Vos, there are three main priorities when it comes to spending: education, inflation, and innovation.

“We can argue about why we have the pandemic and the mistakes that were made, but that really doesn't matter anymore,” Vos said. “We just had this massive influx of federal money that was spent by our local school districts, and it looks like it had almost no impact on learning. That's what my concern is. That just putting a bunch more money into the system without some kind of real reforms isn't going to do enough for our kids. [The] second bucket is we have got to deal with inflation. I could again argue about the Biden administration, all the federal spending, but that doesn't really matter to Wisconsinites. And then the last issue we really got to focus on is innovation. We have a problem in Wisconsin with our demographics, we are, our birth rate is below the national average, we are not getting in that migration, we have a lot of jobs to fill. Now, 30 years from now, we are going to have a choice if we don't do something today. That is a dramatic reduction in services or a big increase in taxes, and I don't want either one, so I think we have the opportunity to do innovation, sharing of services and do it in a way that is bipartisan.”

Reaching across the aisle to Democrats

During Gov. Evers' first term in office, his relationship with Republican leaders was tenuous at best. However, before the start of his second term in office, Vos and his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, have already met with the governor at his invitation.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks about compromise across the aisle with Spectrum News 1 Political Reporter Anthony DaBruzzi.

“Prior to now, I really hadn't spoken to Gov. Evers since his staff secretly recorded our conversation and released it to the public, which was, of course, a huge breach of trust,” Vos said. “But we are hitting the reset button, so we are meeting. I'm hoping we can find some bipartisan consensus again, but one thing I have realized, especially since the elections, people are just tired of politics. They don't want to have everything, every Christmas conversation, every time they go to the grocery store or watch a Packers game, they don't want politics to be 24/7. So maybe we can help them by giving a little bit of a reprieve, at least at the State Capitol where the politics never goes away, but we find a little bit of a better chance to reach [a] consensus as a Christmas and holiday gift to the people of Wisconsin."

Assembly Republicans fall short of a supermajority

If Republican Tim Michels had been successful in his bid for governor, a supermajority in the legislature probably would not have mattered much. However, such a scenario did not play out, and with Gov. Evers in office, Republicans had hoped to have the two-thirds majority they needed in both chambers to override any vetoes by the governor.

Assembly Republicans fell short of their goal in November.

Republican candidate for governor, Tim Michels, makes a final stretch campaign stop near Green Bay, Wis. (Spectrum News 1/Jon Fuller)

“Only in the world of Democrats can losing three seats in the Assembly and one seat in the Senate be this big victory that they are all proud of,” Vos said of November's election results. “So I am really proud of our record gaining seats in a year when it didn't trend for Republicans, making sure that we elected good people in every part of the state. We picked up three seats. Each one of those districts was a 50-50 seat, so if the Democrats, who have this argument that somehow they think, which is not true, that the maps are unfairly skewed toward us, well, then they would win 50-50 seats at least some of the time.”

Reform remains the goal

Aside from the budget, and other fiscal priorities, the Republican caucus in the Assembly plans to simply focus on reform, according to Speaker Vos.

“We want to make sure kids have a great school,” Vos explained. “We want to make sure that our local governments have the resources, but also the innovation to do better. We got to work on workforce housing. Housing right now is super expensive, and it is not even enough to meet [the] current demand. We have got jobs to fill in every single field of the state that people need training, but we also need to figure [out] a way to attract people to Wisconsin, so I think we have a lot of good, positive, optimistic vision for Wisconsin, but a lot of challenges too and that is what makes a part of it fun.”​