OP-ED: 2023 A Year in Review

As 2023 comes to a close, Wisconsinites are at the end of a year marked by historic progress on important issues like abortion access, fair maps, and more – but it was also a year marked by GOP obstruction and skewed priorities on issues that matter to Wisconsinites.

We began the year by inaugurating Governor Tony Evers into a new term after Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly re-elected him in 2022.

Gov. Evers started off his new term by introducing a biennial budget proposal that prioritized the people of Wisconsin through: putting more money into middle class pockets, ensuring fully funded schools and affordable childcare, addressing mental health needs, lowering healthcare costs, nurturing a cleaner environment, creating family supporting jobs, and further protecting our freedom to vote.

But the Republican-authored budget that landed on the governor’s desk months later was a far cry from the budget Wisconsinites endorsed when they re-elected Gov. Evers last fall – all because Republicans slashed more than 500 items and passed a budget that prioritized their own partisan agenda over the needs of Wisconsinites.

In the realm of reproductive rights, 2023 brought both strides and setbacks. A ruling out of Dane County Circuit Court found that a statute on the books from 1849 does not ban consensual abortions, Democratic state legislators introduced the Reproductive Freedom Act, Gov. Evers called for a referendum to let Wisconsin voters decide on abortion, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could preserve access to medication abortions.

But Wisconsin Republicans have remained steadfast in their crusade to take reproductive freedoms away from us, voting down Gov. Evers’ abortion referendum, voting to fund harmful anti-abortion centers, and at the federal level, continuing support for a national abortion ban by voting to elect anti-abortion extremist Mike Johnson Speaker of the House.

On fair maps, the Wisconsin Supreme Court released a ruling this year that the state’s legislative maps – which were drawn by Republican lawmakers to give themselves a partisan advantage – are unconstitutional, signaling that popular policies may finally have a fair shot at becoming law in Wisconsin, by preventing politicians from rigging maps and dodging accountability at the ballot box.

Wisconsin Republicans were so threatened by the new progressive court majority’s decision to even hear the maps case, that they weaponized an illegal impeachment scheme against Justice Janet Protasiewicz – who Wisconsinites elected this year by more than one million votes.

At the federal level, we celebrated milestone investments in Wisconsin made possible by Biden Administration policies like the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – both of which have made tangible growth in lowering costs, creating new jobs, expanding high speed internet, repairing miles of roads and bridges, and combating climate change.

In addition to historic federal investments from President Biden, 2023 was a bookend year for right-wing MAGA election deniers.

We began the year marking the second anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, and are now ending the year with fake electors from Wisconsin admitting to their role in trying to improperly overturn the 2020 election results – which has sparked several calls for Wisconsin Election Commissioner Bob Spindell and state Judicial Ethics Committee Member Jim Troupis to resign or be removed over their roles in the fake elector plot.

Also in 2023, a grand jury of everyday Americans reviewed mountains of evidence and witness testimony to determine MAGA leader Donald Trump should be charged with violating the Espionage Act and committing both obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy.

So, as we look ahead to 2024, we must continue demanding that our elected leaders make smart, bold investments in our local Wisconsin communities – and we need to call out and hold accountable those who stand in the way of our progress.

Reflecting on the resilience shown in 2023, and how we came together to support our fellow Wisconsinites, we can make 2024 a year of historic progressive change.

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A Better Wisconsin Together is a state-based research and communications hub for progressives and is an affiliate of ProgressNow.