Wisconsin Legislators Vote to Audit DEI Initiatives in the State

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin legislature’s audit committee voted to launch a comprehensive review of DEI, diversity, and inclusion efforts across state government after the top Republican in the assembly vowed to eliminate equity initiatives.

The audit committee voted 6-4 to order the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct the review. All four Democrats on the panel voted against it.

Democrat Governor Tony Evers signed a 2019 executive order that requires each state agency to create and supervise equity and inclusion plans to assess workplaces and ensure they are equitable, expand professional development, and promote inclusion to encourage a more inclusive culture.

Joe Chrisman, the state auditor, told committee members that the review could show how much compliance costs and what agencies have done to comply with the order and outcomes. Chrisman said the probe is set to include executive branch agencies, cabinet-level agencies, the state university system, and the state Department of Justice.

Conservatives nationwide have consistently worked to limit DEI initiatives. GOP legislators in about two dozen states have filed bills this year that look to restrict DEI initiatives. Robin Vos, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker, has pledged to end state diversity efforts, saying such initiatives are “cancerous” and that he seeks a society that is “truly colorblind.”

In December, Vos forced University of Wisconsin regents to freeze diversity hires, drop an affirmative action hiring program at UW-Madison, and re-label around 40 diversity positions as “student access” positions in exchange for funding to cover construction projects and staff raises. 

Wisconsin assembly speaker says he wants extensive review of diversity initiatives statewide

After the deal was complete, Vos wanted an extensive review of diversity initiatives across the Wisconsin state government.

A spokesperson for Evers, Britt Cudaback, posted on X that the GOP is trying to weaponize the audit bureau “to conduct purely ideological and politically driven exercises.”

Green Bay Republican Senator Eric Wimberger, who co-chairs the audit committee, fired back with a statement saying legislators must ensure state agencies and the university system use tax dollars wisely.

“This proposed audit has very clear goals of delving into the administration’s DEI initiatives,” said Wimberger in a statement. What did the agency do? How much did it cost? And what did it achieve?”

Representative Francesca Hong and Senator Tim Carpenter, two Democrats on the audit committee, released a joint statement accusing Speaker Vos of using the diversity audit to further deepen political divisions before the November elections.

The Dems predicted Republicans would use the audit as a scheme to end diversity programs across state government.