Evers pushes Medicaid expansion, calls on GOP leaders to avoid making health care ‘partisan issue’
Gov. Tony Evers took his push to expand Medicaid to a statewide audience in his first State of the State Tuesday, making a public appeal to the Legislature's two top Republicans to avoid making health care a "partisan issue."
Evers referred to the Senate's Scott Fitzgerald and the Assembly's Robin Vos as "Mr. Majority Leader and Mr. Speaker" in his speech, urging them to follow the lead of GOP states such as Kentucky and Nebraska in accepting the money.
"The people of Wisconsin voted for a change this November and asked us to stop playing politics with their health care," Evers said.
Evers' Medicaid focus comes shortly after vowing to get the public to pressure GOP lawmakers to go along with his plan to accept federal money to expand the number of people covered by the program.
As he did last week, Evers vowed to include a provision in his budget to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 76,000 state residents. He said accepting the federal money would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing investments in crucial programs.
Evers also said he’s fulfilled a campaign pledge by ordering new Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to withdraw Wisconsin from a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The ACA provides money to states that accept it to expand Medicaid.
GOP lawmakers last month changed state law to strip the governor’s power to direct the AG to pull out of a lawsuit, instead giving it to the Legislature. Evers hasn’t made clear how he intended to get around that provision.
In his address, Evers also laid out what he saw as the challenges facing Wisconsin: being among the worst states in the country to raise a black family; spending more on Corrections than the UW System; lagging the nation on broadband expansion; and trailing others on start-ups and small-business creation.
Evers also issued a call to lawmakers to help him in “fixing the economy.” During the campaign, Republicans touted a record run of unemployment at or below 3 percent, nearly 90,000 open jobs in the state and a series of tax breaks under Walker that they said amounted to $8 billion saved.
But Evers said the economy is about more than “counting job creation” and the unemployment rate.
He argued success is also defined by how many workers put in 40 hours a week, but still don’t make enough to keep their family out of poverty, as well as the natural resources left behind for coming generations rather than what’s socked away in the state’s rainy day fund.
“The strength of our success is not found solely in fiscal surplus; it’s defined, too, by the number of our kids who will go to school hungry tomorrow,” Evers said.
See more from the speech: