Governor Tony Evers on Wednesday morning called a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature to address health care and economic recovery. Within hours, Republican leaders announced they won’t hold votes on Evers’ proposal, the same outcome as all previous special sessions called by the Democratic governor.
“We’re not only going to expand access to healthcare for tens of thousands of people across our state, we’re going to use that $1 billion we’d save and put it toward making sure our economy can bounce back and recover from this pandemic,” Evers said in a statement announcing the special session. “It’s time for Republicans to put politics aside, and let’s work together to invest in economic development and recovery efforts across our state.”
The special session will be held this upcoming Tuesday. Lawmakers are being asked to consider expanding BadgerCare Plus and address Wisconsin’s economic recovery from the coronavirus.
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point), who serves on the legislature’s budget committee, said Evers’ proposal presents a real opportunity. “We’re not going to see this again,” he said. “We’re not going to see an opportunity to get an additional billion dollars with no strings attached to it really, other than taking the Medicaid expansion, to spent on projects that need to be done, all over the state.”
Evers’ bill would designate $1 billion toward more than 50 projects around the state. Wisconsin qualifies for that one-time bonus payment if it expands BadgerCare Plus under a provision of the American Rescue Plan.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said it could provide obvious benefits to the entire state.
“But not acting is also a decision with consequences, and it’s one that’ll hurt the state going forward,” Hintz said. “Both of them are decisions, but one really is an opportunity we should take advantage of. And I hope my colleagues will come to the table.”
Republican leaders in the Assembly and Senate rejected the plan, in a joint statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
“In Wisconsin, there is no coverage gap between BadgerCare and the heavily-subsidized federal exchanges. Everyone who wants insurance in our state has access and options,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostberg). “Our unique-to-Wisconsin solution is working, and we will not shift tens of thousands of people off their private insurance to a government-run system.”
“If the Governor were serious about the proposals he packed into this bill, he could fund each one of them today with the mountain of federal funds at his direct disposal,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield.) “This is a thinly-veiled political maneuver by the Governor. We intend to gavel out this unserious stunt.”