Race for governor ends with focus on taxes, health care

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MADISON — The tossup contest for governor of Wisconsin is ending with Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic opponent Tony Evers making last-minute pitches on the issues that largely drove the race from the beginning: health care, taxes and the economy.

Walker and Evers joined other candidates across the state Monday making their closing arguments in final campaign stops and on social media. Both sides were ending the campaigns where their base of support is strongest: Evers and other Democrats in Madison, Walker and Republicans in Waukesha.

Polls Tuesday open statewide starting at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Also on the ballot, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin faces Republican Leah Vukmir; Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel squares off against Democratic attorney Josh Kaul; Democrat Randy Bryce faces Republican Bryan Steil in the race to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan in southeastern Wisconsin; and Republican control of the state Assembly and Senate is up for grabs with races all across the state.

Walker cast the decision as being about pocketbook issues.

"While 'everything is on the table' for Evers when it comes to raising taxes — including property, income and gas taxes — our plans will continue to cut taxes and keep #WIWorking," Walker tweeted Monday.

In the past week, Evers has said he won't raise taxes even as he remains open to a higher gas tax to spend more on roads and wants to nearly eliminate a manufacturing and agriculture tax credit program. He would use the $300 million in savings to lower personal property taxes for the middle class.

Evers, the state schools superintendent, also said his education department budget request would not raise property taxes while increasing state funding for schools by nearly $1.7 billion.

"I'm planning on raising no taxes," Evers said in an interview Sunday on WISN-TV, repeating a claim he first made last week to the Washington Post.

But Evers has not explained how that promise comports with his willingness to raise the gas tax or promising to end the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit program for those who earn more than $300,000, which would increase taxes for them.

Walker argued that Evers' proposals would increase income and property taxes while also repeatedly asserting that Evers would raise the gas tax by as much as a dollar a gallon. Evers calls that ridiculous, but he has not said how much he would be willing to increase the 32.9-cent per-gallon gas tax.

Evers has largely focused on health care, saying Walker's longtime disdain for the Affordable Care Act shows he can't be trusted to do what's best for people with pre-existing conditions.

Walker last week broadened his promise on protecting health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, saying he wants to enact the "exact same language" at the state level that's in the federal law.

However, a more limited state protection failed in the state Senate this year and Republican leaders of the Legislature have not commented on Walker's new, broader proposal.

Also, any state law would not protect as many people because only the federal government can regulate self-funded plans. That means people insured by more than 150 companies in Wisconsin would lose the guarantees of coverage for pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Walker this year also authorized the state to join a lawsuit seeking repeal of the federal law. Walker has insisted that he's not reversing himself.

Evers told a crowd in Beloit that he wanted to be governor to "solve problems."

Tony Evers is set to vote Tuesday at the Madison Public Library in Madison. He will host an election night party at the Orpheum Theater in Madison.

Governor Scott Walker voted early. He will host an election night party at the Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee.

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