Laurel White

Evers, GOP Lawmakers Seek Common Ground

But Republicans won't budget on accepting expanded federal funds for Medicaid.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jan 16th, 2019 10:09 am
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Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Republican lawmakers vowed Tuesday to find common ground at the Capitol during a meeting that included GOP members from both the state Senate and Assembly. But they held fast to their differences over a major Evers campaign proposal: accepting additional federal money for health care in Wisconsin.

The governor, a Democrat, championed accepting the federal Medicaid expansion during his campaign, arguing it would decrease health care costs across the state. Republicans have opposed the expansion for years, arguing it could come with unexpected and burdensome expenses for the state.

“We’re not going to burn the Capitol down here, we’re going to disagree,” Evers told reporters after the meeting. “I believe our position, at the end of the day, is the correct one. We’re going to take this directly to the people of Wisconsin in a respectful way.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, however, remained opposed to expanding Medicaid, known as BadgerCare in Wisconsin, and said he urged Evers to find areas of agreement instead.

“The request was don’t pick things that you know have no chance of passing just to score political points,” Vos said. “Every person that’s on BadgerCare is subsidized by somebody who’s on the private insurance market. We don’t want to make the situation worse.”

When asked if the GOP-controlled Senate also considers the expansion a “non-starter,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said, “I think it is.”

Evers and Republican lawmakers have spoken about finding possible compromise on an income tax cut for middle-income families and a potential gas tax increase to fund Wisconsin road projects. However, Tuesday’s meeting also outlined a difference in tax policy plans. Evers has considered limiting the scope of the state’s GOP-backed manufacturing and agriculture tax credit.

“When I asked the question about whether or not we would agree that we could not raise taxes on income or sales, (the governor) said, well it depends on how you define that,” Vos said. “I think most of us agree that taking away a credit which makes somebody’s taxes go up is a tax increase.”

While differences remained clear, there were some areas where the two sides seemed to align more closely, as when Fitzgerald lauded Evers for stepping away from his previous statements about shuttering the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

“He made the commitment that he would not touch WEDC in this budget,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that’s a huge victory.”

Priorities From Assembly Democrats

State Assembly Democrats also unveiled a number of legislative priorities for the current session Tuesday, including plans to reintroduce changes to redistricting laws.

Under the Democratic proposal, redistricting would be taken over by a nonpartisan commission.

“Wisconsin’s gerrymandered maps have marginalized the voices and silenced the votes of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites over the last seven years,” said Rep. Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa. “The time has come for politicians to listen to the people.”

A similar proposal has been introduced in previous sessions and failed.

“It’s time to take partisan politics out of redistricting,” said Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, who will sponsor the plan in the Senate.

Democrats also said they would propose changes to campaign finance laws in Wisconsin, including limits to individual contributions to political parties and legislative campaign committees.

The minority party will also back changes to the state constitution that would outlaw actions like those taken by the GOP majority during December’s extraordinary session and make it illegal for the Legislature to exempt itself from state public records laws.

The Democratic proposals will likely face an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled Assembly.

Editor’s note: Shawn Johnson contributed reporting to this story.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Governor, GOP Lawmakers Seek Common Ground But Rifts Remain was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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