New details on GOP coronavirus relief package show potential cuts in state spending

New proposed legislation at the capitol tackles the impact of the coronavirus seemingly from all sides.

When it comes to healthcare, a GOP-backed bill package looks at covering the cost of vaccinations for seniors on the state’s Seniorcare program. It also prohibits insurance from charging for testing for COVID-19 and allows pharmacists to extend prescription refills for 30 days during a public health emergency, according to a memo released by the governor’s office.

Some other changes look to cut some government spending given the impact the disease will have on the state’s economy and revenue.

Provisions would give the Joint Finance Committee power to reduce projected spending, pause certain tax cuts and take back pay raises for state and UW system employees if a checkup from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau in June shows an estimated deficit in the budget for the next fiscal year.

Gov. Tony Evers so far has not been supportive of the legislation as it gives the Republican-controlled joint finance committee broad authority to cut spending.

“I’m asking for the legislature to take politics out of this proposal so we can move forward on addressing the needs of our state,” Evers said in a news release Wednesday. “We have work to do folks—we don’t have time to play politics, and this provision won’t do anything to help our state respond to COVID-19 or to help our families who are struggling during this crisis.”

In his own legislative proposals, Evers supported giving millions to agencies responding to the crisis, including an uncapped amount to the department of health services during this public health emergency.

Republicans have not taken that legislation up in the weeks since it’s been announced.

At least one piece both parties seem to be in agreement on is waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits. That provision was included in both the governor’s and the GOP plan.

Republican leadership did not respond to a request for comment on when the proposed bills would be taken up in a legislative session.

Read  the draft memo of the proposed legislation or see how it compares to the governor’s proposal.