Lawmakers finalize state budget issues

Most controversial issues are left to vote on
Lawmakers finalize state budget issues

State lawmakers are working to finalize the details of the state budget.

The issues left to vote on Tuesday were some of the most controversial, including Medicaid funding, public school aids, a planned income tax cut and an expansion of the private school voucher program.

Lawmakers started the day with Medicaid, adopting a plan to reject federal funding to expand Badgercare programs, which some on Badgercare now say will leave them hanging.

“In a time where we’re talking about funding our schools, we’re having a hard time funding roads and doing a whole range of things we’ve talked about in this committee, how we can turn back $120 million is just mind-blowing,” said Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee.

Advocates and Badgercare patients who are against the Republican-backed plan filled the hearing room and overflow rooms, including Rebecca Nelson, who says she and her family would be pushed out of Badgercare and into exchanges she couldn’t afford.

“I would be $2,213 over the federal poverty line of 100 percent,” said Nelson, who came from Eau Claire for the hearing. “So my family would lose because I would not be able to go back and pay the premiums.”

Republicans who control the committee say they’re going along with the Governor’s plan because federal funding for the expansion isn’t guaranteed in the future.

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“If you look at what the Governor has done, he’s provided certainty,” said Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills. “If we want to take the $100 million [for Medicaid expansion], that might have given us $100 million today. But there’s no certainty about what is going to be provided tomorrow.”

As the governor’s plan passed, Nelson says her future is uncertain as well.

“This vote means that my family is going to lose its insurance,” said Nelson.

Republicans argue that the Medicaid plan will in fact cover more people because some childless adults not in Badgercare will now be let in and those above the poverty line can go into federal exchanges.

The committee also added a safety net provision, so if those exchanges aren’t ready by this fall, those in the program now won’t be kicked out.

Lawmakers were still expected to vote Tuesday evening on an income tax cut, funding for public schools, and an expansion of the voucher program.

Once the committee approves the budget, it will go to the assembly and senate for a vote once JFC is finished.