The Joint Finance Committee will begin working on Wisconsin’s next state budget this week.
The committee’s leaders – Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills – have said they plan to remove 70 non-fiscal items from Democrat Governor Tony Evers’ budget.
A memo they released last week came after the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a list of non-fiscal items in Evers’ budget. The bureau’s list includes the second greatest number of non-fiscal items in a governor’s budget since 2001.
Only Walker’s 2017 budget proposal had more, from which the committee also removed non-fiscal items.
The committee’s budget proposal excludes key provisions of Evers’ plan, including his attempt to freeze school choice programs for low-income families, repeal the state’s 2015 Right to Work statute, and expand Medicaid.
The committee will begin working on the budget on Thursday, May 9.
Among the 70 items listed, the committee plans to eliminate Evers’ proposals to legalize medical marijuana, increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50 by 2023, and allow illegal immigrants to receive Wisconsin drivers licenses.
It also excludes Evers’ tax increase of more than $1 billion as a result of capping a tax credit for large manufacturers, and excludes Evers’ plan to end a freeze on property tax levies for counties and municipalities.
Evers’ plan to cap enrollment in the state’s voucher program is also scrapped as is his plan to grant in-state tuition to Wisconsin high school graduates who came to the U.S. illegally.
Nygren and Darling have said Evers’ budget is “unsustainable” and “irresponsible” and would result in a $2 billion structural deficit within two years.
In a statement, Nygren said the 70 non-fiscal items listed are ones “Republicans have been clear we will not support,” adding, “We have consistently said we will not raise taxes or expand welfare programs.”
When it comes to the issue of Medicaid expansion, CJ Szafir, executive vice president at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), said, “Doing what’s right is not always easy. But by rejecting costly federal Medicaid expansion, the Republican legislative leadership is acting in the best interest of the state of Wisconsin and we applaud them for standing on principle.”
According to a recent study published by WILL, expanding Medicaid would cost Wisconsin families with private insurance as much as $700 per year for a family of four, resulting in a net cost to Wisconsin of more than $400 million.
The study analyzed data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia comparing private-sector health insurance costs and emergency room visits in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility to those that did not. It found that Wisconsin already has no health insurance coverage gap. Individuals who would move to Medicaid already have access to subsidized health insurance coverage.
Medicaid expansion would cost taxpayers more, WILL argues, from driving up private health insurance costs to more costly services for emergency room visits. Healthcare providers ultimately pass on costs to consumers, the report notes.
However, Ever’s office tweeted, “Wisconsinites have made their voices clear. Don’t let the GOP ignore the will of the people. Call your legislators and tell them you support Medicaid expansion.”
The GOP plan includes Evers’ proposed middle-class income tax cut totaling about $834 million over two years.
Bethany Blankley is a contributor to Watchdog.org.