BELOIT - The Ho-Chunk Nation's Beloit casino and resort plan has found a new supporter: State Superintendent Tony Evers, the leading Democratic candidate for governor ahead of the August primary race.
In an interview Wednesday evening at the Beloit Daily News, Evers said if he defeats Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the Nov. 6 election and the casino application lands on his desk, he will approve it.
"I would sign that agreement," Evers said plainly.
The tribe's plan for a $405.5 million casino-resort development near Interstate 39/90 at Willowbrook and Colley roads will be reviewed by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs this year, with publication in the federal register by the first quarter of 2018, according to project officials. The listing in the federal register would be key for the project, set to be followed by a public hearing. Officials estimate the public hearing could be held in the second quarter of 2018.
Walker has not taken a public position on the Beloit proposal, but he rejected a casino plan in Kenosha.
Evers, 65, said his public service and academic backgrounds make him more qualified than Walker or the crowded Democratic field. He has served as superintendent since 2009 and was re-elected in April 2016, netting 70 percent of the statewide vote.
He said holding the non-partisan office has helped him work with legislators on both sides of the aisle, saying he would look to "engage in the legislative process" to promote bipartisanship. Evers said he would make an effort to appoint cabinet members based on qualification rather than political affiliation.
He ran through various issues Wednesday, from school choice in Wisconsin, the Foxconn Technology Group tax incentive plan to re-examining collective bargaining rights lost to Act 10 and supporting statewide community forums aimed at improving race relations at state and private agencies.
• Open enrollment and school choice: Evers said he would like to cap vouchers with income requirements related to school choice, adding that he believes the trend will level off and stabilize. He also said he wanted to see more transparency related to education policy.
"It's less around choice rather than subsidizing private and parochial schools. That's an interesting policy decision to make," Evers said. "It's purported as an issue of choice, but as it expands statewide, we've made a policy decision on whether or not we subsidize private education."
• Foxconn: The superintendent said he wanted to re-examine all aspects of the environmental issues coinciding with the massive economic development project that would provide the company with $3 billion in tax breaks. Evers said the deal was excessive and that the end result could put financial burdens on the state.
"It's a bell that will be hard to unring," Evers said. "This is one of the biggest issues we're hearing from voters heading into the election."
• Act 10: He said repealing aspects of Act 10 will not play a major part in his campaign, but said if he was given the opportunity he would sign a bill that would give rights back to Wisconsin public workers.
"Public employees need to have a voice," Evers said.
• Race relations: Evers said his time as superintendent had shown him there were clear gaps in how the state deals with race. Evers said as governor he would lead on a community level, being willing to go into Wisconsin communities big and small to "have those tough discussions" related to improving racial divides in the state.
Evers is from Plymouth, Wisconsin, serving as principal in Tomah and running school districts in Oakfield and Verona. He has three children with wife Kathy Evers and resides in Madison.
To learn more about Evers, visit tonyevers.com.