MADISON, Wis. - Republicans on the Legislature's finance committee are kicking off deliberations on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' state budget by branding the spending plan as "irresponsible."
The finance committee is beginning the months-long process of revising the budget Wednesday with briefings by state agencies on their spending priorities.
Republicans control the committee. Rep. John Nygren, the committee's co-chairman, began the briefings by labeling Evers' plan as "irresponsible." Sen. Alberta Darling, the committee's co-chairwoman, lamented that the budget raises taxes by $1.3 billion and is projected to lead to a nearly $2 billion shortfall heading into the next budget.
Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor says the spending plan is the "people's budget."
GOP attacks Evers' Medicaid expansion plans
Evers' state budget calls for accepting federal Medicaid expansion, a move that would add about 82,000 low-income people to Medicaid rolls. The state would save about $320 million over the next two years thanks to an infusion of federal dollars.
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee began deliberations on the budget with agency briefings Wednesday. The committee's co-chairman, Republican Rep. John Nygren, took state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm to task on the expansion.
He noted that half of the 82,000 potential new enrollees already have private health insurance and raised doubts about whether those enrollees would be able to keep their current doctors. He added he's concerned about removing 40,000 people from the private insurance marketplace and the instability that would create.
Palm countered that Evers is trying to give people access to health care. She said that many of the people who would be covered by the expansion are already moving between private insurance and Medicaid as they change jobs, creating instability.
GOP takes apart Evers' roads budget
The governor has proposed raising the gas tax by 8 cents per gallon to help pay for road repairs and eliminating the minimum mark-up law. Evers has said the net result could be a 14-cent decrease in the price of gas.
The Joint Finance Committee grilled Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson during an agency briefing Wednesday.
Republican Rep. Mark Born asked Thompson if he believed gas would drop by 14 cents per gallon. Thompson said he didn't know for sure but eliminating the minimum mark-up would cause a "significant" decrease in prices.
Born also asked him for the cost of Evers' proposal to give driver's licenses to people in the country illegally. Thompson responded by saying the state can absorb the cost but didn't offer a figure.
Finance committee set to kick off budget deliberations
Republican legislators are about to start the months-long public process of revising Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' state budget with agency briefings
Officials from the departments of Public Instruction, Transportation and Health Services are set to brief the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee starting Wednesday morning on the portions of Evers' budget that affect them. The departments of Workforce Development, Corrections and Natural Resources are set to present on Thursday.
The committee won't take any votes during the hearings. The proceedings will mostly serve as an opening for Republicans who control the committee to criticize Evers' spending plan in front of the media.
The committee is scheduled to hold public hearings on Evers' budget at four different locations around the state during April before returning to Madison to start voting on revisions.
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