No Flip
On Evers' support for a $15 minimum wage

Tony Evers on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019 in news reports

Too early to say Gov. Evers flipped on raising minimum wage

Supporters of raising Wisconsin's minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour demonstrate during an Oct. 22, 2018, University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee rally featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

The 2018 gubernatorial campaign featured plenty of spirited debate between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Tony Evers.

Among the flash points: The state’s minimum wage.

Evers, who defeated Walker, backed raising the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, though with a lower minimum for teenagers and workers in rural areas.

Indeed, his position was spelled out on his website:

"Tony supports raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and indexing to inflation. However, like Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Tony also believes that this should be phased in over multiple years."

Has Evers already backed off such a central promise weeks into his term?

That was the claim made Jan. 8, 2019 by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, which cited an article by the Maclver Institute headlined: "Evers has pulled an about-face on several campaign promises."

Seems like a good time to return to our Flip-O-Meter, which we use to gauge whether a politician has changed his or her position. Our requisite reminder: We are not rating whether any change is good (or bad) politics or policy -- just whether the politician has been consistent.

We have already used the Flip-O-Meter to look at whether Evers has shifted his position on directing the attorney general to withdraw Wisconsin from the pre-existing conditions lawsuit (Rating: Full Flop) and on dissolving the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in his first budget (Rating: Full Flop).

What about Evers and his support for a $15 minimum wage?

Has his position changed?

The evidence

In the article, the MacIver Institute, a conservative think tank based in Madison, cited two Evers statements to declare he had flip-flopped on the minimum wage.

The MacIver article quoted a statement from an October 2018 rally featuring Sanders at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in which Evers said: "We’re going to $15 an hour minimum."

That’s pretty clear. And consistent with his campaign platform.

As evidence Evers has backed off the $15 promise, the article cites an interview he did with the Wisconsin State Journal posted Jan. 3, 2019.

The lead of the State Journal article states: "Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers says he expects his first state budget plan to offer a ‘clear pathway’ to increase the state’s $7.25 minimum wage."

From lower in the article:

Evers declined to say how, or how much, his budget would propose to increase the state’s minimum wage, which now is as low as permitted under federal law: $7.25 an hour. He said only "there will be a clear pathway found in the budget to get to" an increase.

During the campaign Evers supported a gradual increase to a $15 minimum wage. He told the State Journal editorial board in October that he’s open to exceptions to a $15 wage in rural areas and for teenage workers.

Such a plan likely would meet with opposition from the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has resisted minimum-wage hikes embraced in neighboring states.

Of the states bordering Wisconsin, only Iowa has a $7.25 minimum wage. Illinois’ minimum is $8.25 an hour, Michigan’s is $9.25 and Minnesota’s is $9.65 for large employers and $7.87 for small ones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

To critics, this is evidence of a shift in position. The MacIver article notes "While his first budget will offer a ‘clear pathway’ to raising the wage, Evers declined to say how, or how much, his budget would propose to increase the state’s minimum wage."

In our view, this is not a switch at all.

Evers’ platform talked about the need to phase in an increase -- it did not call for an immediate jump to the $15 level. And, in any case, the budget at hand covers a two-year period, or roughly the first half of his term. It’s not Evers’ only shot to accomplish his goal.

Indeed, when we contacted Britt Cudaback, Evers’ deputy communications director, she said the governor has not backed off his pledge.

"The Governor indicated he thinks we can get to $15 by the end of his first term," Cudaback said in an email. "The article isn’t reporting that the Governor won’t be trying to raise the wage or that the Governor no longer supports a $15 minimum wage, just that the Governor declined to say exactly ‘how, or how much’ it would be increased in his budget, which he’ll be introducing on February 28."

Our rating

The state Republican Party and the MacIver Institute have accused Evers of shifting his position on raising the state’s minimum wage. Has he?

The evidence is beyond slim.

Evers has long talked of phasing in an increase. Not telegraphing how much he might move to increase it in his first budget is not evidence that he no longer wants to increase it at all.

We rate this one a No Flip.