MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Opposition to Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to increase the gas tax for roads is growing, while support remains strong for other parts of his agenda including the minimum wage, spending more on special education and legalizing medical marijuana, a poll released Wednesday showed.
The Marquette University Law School poll showed strong support for several of Evers’ proposals. He is battling with a Republican-controlled Legislature to enact a two-year state budget that includes his priorities. The poll comes about four months into Evers’ term, which has been marked by legal fights with Republicans over a lame-duck legislative session they called before he took office and a frosty relationship with GOP leaders.
Evers and Republican legislative leaders met privately on Wednesday, just before the latest poll was released. Republicans, who were used to meeting regularly with former GOP Gov. Scott Walker, have complained about not talking enough with Evers. The governor has said their relationship is “fine.”
In the battle of public opinion, the poll shows that approval of the Legislature and Evers is about the same. The Legislature’s job approval was at 50%, compared with 47% for Evers. That is within the poll’s 4-point margin of error.
The public appears to be siding with Evers in his relationship with the Legislature. The poll said that 48% believe he is trying to cooperate with Republican legislative leaders, while only 25% believe they are trying to work with him.
On Evers’ priorities, the poll had mixed results:
— Opposition to increasing the gas tax is up from January, just before Evers’ called for an 8-cent per gallon spike to pay for roads. In January, 52% said they opposed a gas tax increase. That was up to 57% in April with only 39% in support.
— Evers is calling for the legalization of medical marijuana and decriminalizing of up to 50 grams of recreational marijuana. The poll found 59% support legalizing marijuana and 83% support medical marijuana. Republicans oppose the Evers proposal.
— Evers wants to increase special education funding by $600 million, an amount Republicans said was too high. The poll doesn’t specify a specific amount, but 74% said they support a major increase for special education funding.
— Evers’ call to accept federal money to expand Medicaid had 70% support. Republicans have vowed not to do that.
— Evers has proposed freezing voucher school enrollments and not allowing for any new independent charter schools. The poll shows the public is against him on that one, with 46% opposing such a freeze and 41% backing it.
— The governor’s call to raise the minimum wage has support, with 57% backing it.
— Evers wants to charge people as adults for crimes starting at age 18, rather than 17 as it is currently. The poll showed 49% support that change, while 45% oppose it.
Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the number of issues that the poll found voters support in his budget shows that his proposal “reflects the will of the people.”
“These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, they are Wisconsin values, and a majority of Wisconsinites agree,” Baldauff said.
Republican legislative leaders had no immediate comment.
On national issues, the poll showed President Donald Trump’s approval rating sat at 46%. Only 42% of respondents said they were likely to vote for Trump next year, compared with 54% who said they would vote for someone else.
Trump’s numbers on both questions were slightly improved from January, but still within the poll’s 4-point margin of error. The poll was of 800 registered voters between April 3 and Sunday.
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