As expected, the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance has made major alterations to Governor Tony Evers’ proposed two-year state budget. A Democrat on the budget panel, state Senator Jon Erpenbach, called out Republicans on the committee who voted to strip Medicaid expansion money out of Evers’ plan.
“This is fiscally irresponsible,” the Dane County Democrat said. “We trip over ourselves to hand out money we don’t have to the largest corporations, but when money is there on the table, we’re saying no because it helps poor people.”
Evers has said that taking federal money for a Medicaid expansion would free up $320 million in state funding over the next two years. “When you have the opportunity to cover more people and save the state money at the same time, it’s a no brainer,” said state Senator LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee.
Joint Finance Committee co-chair, state Representative John Nygren of Marinette, defended the move. “Obviously we’re not going to agree on this issue, but I do believe that we need to stop on the rhetoric. We both want people to have access to care. Your perspective is government is the solution.”
“This is a popular item supported by the people of the state of Wisconsin and every single day it’s getting more popular,” said Representative Evan Goyke of Milwaukee. Evers called the vote was disappointing but claimed it was not the end. “I’m going to keep reminding Wisconsinites what’s at stake and I’m going to keep fighting to expand Medicaid,” he said.
The Republican moves will create a $1.4 billion hole in the budget, which is approximately the amount of money Evers has proposed spending on K-12 schools in Wisconsin. The JFC also voted on partisan lines to strip dozens of policy items from Evers’ budget, including eliminating criminal penalties for recreational marijuana use, and allowing people living in Wisconsin with legal immigration status to apply for state issued licenses or ID cards.