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Capitol Update
By Senator Howard Marklein
May 17, 2019

Budget Bulletin I

JFC votes on the State Budget, Medicaid Expansion

The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has begun voting in Executive Session on the State Budget. We are meeting nearly every day and voting two days each week until we are finished with our work on the budget. Our goal is to deliver a budget to the full legislature by mid-June so that we can vote on it before the end of the fiscal year which is June 30, 2019.
In our first day of work, we removed $1,078,330,600 in tax hikes from the Governor’s budget. We kept reforms that are working for Wisconsin and continued to pursue responsible budgeting on behalf of all taxpayers.
Governor Tony Evers’ proposed budget is nearly $9 billion more than our last budget. He has asked Wisconsin taxpayers to spend $84 billion. This is an 11% increase in spending. As you hear news reports on our work on the state budget, please remember that the Governor proposed a tremendous wish list of spending with a similarly tremendous increase in taxes. If we took the Governor’s budget at face value, the tax increase would average $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Wisconsin.
Our changes to the Governor’s original proposal are not “cuts.” We are starting from our current budget and we are supporting your priorities within our means. We are also trying to focus on fiscal issues and moving policy ideas back into the legislative process. The Governor proposed a lot of non-fiscal policy that should be debated as legislation.
On our first day of Executive Sessions, the JFC voted to remove more than 70 non-fiscal items from the state budget discussion. If legislators would like to work on these topics, we are asking them to write separate legislation so that these policy items can be discussed in public hearings and by the whole legislature.
One of the items we removed from the discussion was an expansion of Medicaid. While there are financial elements to this issue, it is truly a policy decision that we decided needed further discussion. I am open to working on a Medicaid Expansion plan that is tailored to fit Wisconsin. I do not believe that the all-or-nothing approach to Medicaid expansion, as proposed by Governor Evers, is a good deal for our state.
Wisconsin is almost always a unique outlier.  We have some of the best insurance coverage in the country for our citizens. We are #6 for best coverage out of all states – including states that have and have not taken the federal Medicaid expansion.
Wisconsin does not have a coverage gap like other states do.  We currently cover everyone up to 100% the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Those who fall into the 100%-138% FPL are eligible for very affordable private health insurance on the Obamacare Exchange.  Other states cover less than half the people we cover. These are the states that are in crisis. 
Expanding Medicaid is not a coverage issue for us and if we expand Medicaid, we need to do it so it is in the best interests of everyone in Wisconsin. We need to make sure the strings attached to the Federal money are reasonable. In my time in the legislature, I have learned that “free” federal money is not free. We need to make sure that if the Federal government pulls back, we can go our own way.  We need to protect your interests and tax dollars before we take on a deal that has the potential to send us back to billions of dollars in deficit spending. I am more than willing to work on this type of deal.
In the meantime, however, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is working hard to fund our priorities. We are trying to find ways to support personal care workers, hospitals, healthcare providers, dental care providers and others.  We are making adjustments in other parts of the state budget to responsibly fund all of our priorities without increasing the tax burden on our citizens.
Recently, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) announced that we will likely have an additional $753 million in general fund tax collections through mid-2021. This re-estimate was made after revising revenue projections.
Whenever we hear about new projections and unexpected dollars, everyone mentally spends the money in a million different ways. In my mind, I would like to spend these one-time dollars on capital maintenance projects, many of which are in the UW system, and on local and state road maintenance projects.
As we continue to work through the State Budget process, we are focused on priorities and our responsibility to be good stewards of your tax dollars. Thank you for your trust.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have any questions or need assistance with any state-related matters.