Republicans on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee stripped Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed Medicaid expansion Thursday. The committee voted against it 11-4, along party lines.
It was one of a number of measures the panel rejected, as members began acting on Evers' biennial spending plan. It only took about a half hour for GOP lawmakers to slice 131 of Evers’ fiscal and policy proposals — cutting $1.4 billion in spending.
The biggest issue was Evers’ bid to expand Medicaid to people just above the federal poverty line. State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) urged Republicans to adopt that part of the spending plan.
“This is a popular item, supported by the people of the state of Wisconsin, and every single day, it’s getting more popular,” he said.
Democrats say the Medicaid expansion would bring $1.6 billion of new federal money into the state. They say it would help provide coverage for low-income people, and also pay for other health care priorities. Wisconsin is one of 13 states that have not taken the federal funding.
Republicans argue the Medicaid expansion would push tens of thousands of people into publicly funded health care. State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) said there's a significant difference between Republican and Democratic perspectives.
"We believe that about half of the people that you are trying, with this motion, to force onto government-run health care are already partnering with the private sector for access to health care," he said.
Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee also scrapped a laundry-list of other proposals in Evers' budget Thursday. The measures include Evers' attempt to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize certain marijuana offenses, to raise the minimum wage, and to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
The committee axed Evers’ proposals to curb the expansion of choice and charter schools. Evers wants to cap school choice enrollment beginning in 2021. About 40,000 students in Wisconsin receive state-funded vouchers to attend private schools, most of them in Milwaukee and Racine.
The governor also proposed a freeze on new independent charter schools authorized by universities and municipalities. But the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee opposed such restrictions on school choice.
The committee will hold a number of other meetings to vote on portions of the budget before sending it to the full Legislature.