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Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, has sued Republican legislators for allegedly defying the state Constitution and undermining his executive powers by withholding approved raises for University of Wisconsin system employees.

In a post on X, Evers accused the GOP  of “violating the Wisconsin Constitution and unconstitutionally obstructing basic government functions,” including blocking raises at UW. 

Republican legislative leaders have blocked pay raises for UW employees—while approving salary increases for other state workers—due to a clash over the system’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which GOP lawmakers have sought to eliminate from the budget. Prior media reports indicate the system spent $32 million on DEI efforts in the last two years. The battle over DEI spending reflects a national conservative movement to eliminate DEI practices at public institutions, with states such as Florida barring funds from being spent on DEI efforts.

The decision to deny the raises was made by a state legislative committee on employee relations, whose leaders insisted the UW system drop its DEI practices. Evers told local reporters that he considered it illegal for the committee to block the raises, adding, “When the Republicans decided that 35,000 people that work for UW System shouldn’t get a raise, without having any legislation that gives them that authority, that’s just bullshit.”

Evers filed the lawsuit directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court; in addition to rectifying the pay raise issue, it seeks to prevent lawmakers from blocking certain state conservation projects.

Robin Vos, Republican speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, accused Evers of filing the suit in “an attempt to eliminate the 4 percent raises given to all state employees.” Vos said in a statement that Evers is trying to “take away lawfully approved money for hardworking state employees.”