GOP needs to govern boldly
GOP needs to govern boldly
Senate Republicans going wobbly
Waukesha Freeman Page A6 Opinion 5/9/2013
Already Gov. Scott Walker’s education agenda is seriously threatened. The governor had proposed expanding private school vouchers to nine more school districts in the next state budget. Republican senators like Luther Olsen and Mike Ellis are determined to stop the expansion.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told RightWisconsin.com that some expansion of school choice is coming: “But there will be some type of expansion of choice. It may not look exactly like what the Governor proposed, there could be a different configuration, but there will be a lot of discussion on it.”
“A lot of discussion” is not what parents in Wisconsin are looking for. When Republicans cave in to the public education lobby, just when they are in retreat statewide, it is a terrible missed opportunity for education reform in Wisconsin. Wisconsin was once a leader on education reform. Now we’re falling behind.
Republicans are missing a real chance to take the education issue away from Democrats. They could put themselves on the side of empowering parents to make the best educational choices for their children. Instead, they cannot even bring themselves to support the tepid increase in the private school choice program the governor has proposed.
Olsen has even gone so far as to propose allowing local public school districts to increase property taxes while killing any increase for choice schools. That means whatever tax cut that survives in the state budget will essentially be a tax shift from the state to the local property tax, undoing the property tax relief of the Tommy Thompson era.
Watching the Republicans in the state Senate you would think that the state teachers unions were growing in strength and popularity instead of watching teachers abandon the unions under the freedom granted by Act 10. The teachers unions tried their best during the recall battles of the last two years and still lost. Republicans should be moving forward with the governor’s education agenda instead of undermining it.
Republicans in the Legislature, led by state Sen. Alberta Darling, are also starting to listen to the health care lobby and are considering an expansion of Medicaid beyond Walker’s health care plan. They would expand coverage to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, relying on an increase in federal money that will likely prove to be temporary.
Walker’s plan is to lower the eligibility for Badger Care to (the state’s Medicaid program) to 100 percent of the federal poverty line but would eliminate the Doyle-era waiting lists to get on BadgerCare. Those above the poverty line would get insurance through the federal health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Darling says she is concerned that the federal health care exchanges will not be ready in time, and that the increase in state Medicaid coverage would be temporary. That is a red herring because Walker’s health care plan will not go into effect until the federal exchanges are complete.
The special interests, including the Wisconsin Hospital Association, who wrote a letter to the Legislature asking for the increased Medicaid coverage, are saying the expansion is needed because the Obamacare health care exchanges will be inadequate to help those above the poverty line needing insurance. Ironically, the WHA was a supporter of Obamacare when it was proposed, and now it is afraid of the consequences.
The perceived problems with the federal health care exchanges will not be temporary. However, the federal funding for more state Medicaid coverage will likely drop from the proposed 90 percent. The current federal reimbursement to the states for Medicaid is around 60 percent.
Republicans should resist the urge to rely upon temporary federal health care money that will only cause long-term financial obligations for the state our taxpayers cannot afford. The governor’s plan may not be popular with the special interests that hypocritically support Obamacare but don’t want to live with the consequences. But the governor’s plan is a prudent plan, and it directly helps those that need the help the most.
In the words of the recently deceased Margaret Thatcher, now is not the time to go wobbly. Republicans were given a renewed mandate when the Democrats lost the recall election last year. They should use it to govern boldly.
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)