Education budget warning, election inquiry
MADISON (WKOW) – Republicans on the Budgetary Joint State Finance Committee called their education budget a $ 500 million increase. But a letter sent by the US Department of Education on Friday warns that the $ 350 million portion of the state’s rainy day fund does not count towards a state’s education spending.
Under the rules set out in a note to lawmakers dated April 8, states are required to ensure that their education spending is at least equal to the average funding for schools in that state in fiscal years 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-2019.
Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee say they only learned about the rules last week.
“There are many states that still have a lot of questions about [Maintenance of Effort rule] so we think there will be more information to come, ”said Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek).
State Superintendent-elect Jill Underly said the committee’s spending plan was “reckless” in its use of federal relief as a justification for a smaller increase in state funding.
“We must not rush an education budget that attempts to replace the state’s obligation to fund public schools with one-time federal COVID relief funds intended to help children recover from the pandemic.” , wrote Underly.
Republican leaders on the Joint Finance Committee said that with a planned relief sum of more than $ 2 billion in federal money for Wisconsin schools, a massive increase in state funding was unnecessary.
“One of the things we wanted to make sure was that even though we were getting a lot of federal funding this time around, it’s likely that we won’t get as much funding in the years to come, so we wanted to put more money into it. aside $ 350 million in our budget stabilization fund, ”Rodriguez said.
Republicans have acknowledged that they will need to do extra work on their education in the coming weeks to ensure that the final state budget that goes to Governor Tony Evers is in line with federal mandates.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is launching a taxpayer-funded investigation into the 2020 presidential election. The story was first reported by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley .
“It’s just another sign that the 2020 election will never die,” Marley said. “There have been many trials, there have been all kinds of criticism, there have been two accounts that Biden has all won. Republicans are convinced there were problems.”
Vos told Marley and others in interviews that he was hiring former police officers – including a former Milwaukee cop who has been criticized for his past efforts to expose alleged electoral fraud – to explore what the municipalities did so with external subsidies.
The Conservatives have particularly targeted money donated by a group largely funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The Center for Tech and Civic Life has provided more than $ 6 million to the state’s five largest cities.
Republicans maintained that some of these cities then used the money to bring in outside consultants to have undue influence over how the elections were conducted, using the public apparatus to boost turnout in the cities. democratic tendency.
When in a rush for evidence, they often bring up the protests of former Green Bay clerk Kris Teske, who alleged that an outside consultant was trying to bring in other workers to the central metering site of the city. Other city officials have denied any wrongdoing.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a high priority for the investigators Robin Vos brought in,” Marley said. “There seem to be more questions in Green Bay than in the other cities.”
Marley noted that the investigation will likely serve as a rationale for election bills Republicans are now pushing through the legislature, including measures banning towns and villages from accepting outside money and limiting the number of sites from which to vote. deposit of the ballots that a municipality may have.
Marley said that when Evers inevitably veto these bills, it will set the stage for electoral integrity to become an issue in the 2022 campaign, as Republicans seek to replace Evers with a GOP governor who passes policies. sweeping changes to the way elections are conducted in Wisconsin.
Medicaid Expansion and Results
While Republicans in Wisconsin have refused to expand Medicaid eligibility since 2013, Democrats have insisted Tuesday’s rejection was the worst yet.
The GOP-controlled legislature has engaged in and out of a special session called by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. A handful of Democrats were in the Assembly Hall and shouted “No! on a meaningless vote before the end of the session in less than a minute.
Democratic lawmakers argued with an additional $ 1.6 billion at stake over the next two years, the refusal to make more people eligible for BadgerCare turned down both the needy and citizens in general.
“By accepting Medicaid funding, not only would more Wisconsinites have access to affordable health insurance, but we could restore the devastating cuts to our UW system and provide more funding to our K-12 schools,” the representative said. Minority Leader of the Assembly, Gordon Hintz (D -Oshkosh).
Democrats also noted that Wisconsin is now one of 12 states in the country, and the only one in the upper Midwest, that has not embraced the Medicaid expansion.
At the heart of the problem are about 90,000 Wisconsinians who earn between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, this range is between $ 26,500 per year and $ 36,570.
Currently, people above the 100% threshold can obtain at least partially subsidized health insurance through exchanges implemented through the Affordable Care Act.
Republican lawmakers say Wisconsin has already succeeded in its own way; it is the only state to reject the expansion of Medicaid, but still provided Medicaid eligibility for anyone who reaches 100% of the poverty line.
“The state of Wisconsin has no gaps in their medical coverage and we’ve done a great job of making sure everyone is 100 percent covered in the state of Wisconsin. [of the poverty level]Said Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls.)
But what about the health care component?
Rebecca Myerson has studied health care outcomes for people with chronic illnesses in states before and after the extension of Medicaid.
“We have seen a similar trend in access that has increased overall in states that have adopted the policy,” Myerson said. “And there has been a general increase in the use of diabetes medications, including, most importantly, access to access to insulin, which can be quite expensive in the absence of insurance. “
Myerson acknowledged that it was difficult to compare Wisconsin to the dozen other states that have resisted expanding Medicaid eligibility because it is the only one of those states to guarantee Medicaid coverage for all until ‘to 100% of the poverty line.
“50 states have 50 different Medicaid programs and basic eligibility criteria that they use before deciding whether or not to adopt this policy,” Myerson said. “So there may be some heterogeneity in the effect depending on what the baseline was and I’m sure that applies to Wisconsin as well.”
While Republicans also worried about possible increases in insurance premiums due to lower reimbursement rates for hospitals on Medicaid cases, Myerson pointed to another study that found hospital finances have improved. after the expansion of Medicaid, including in red states like Indiana and Louisiana.
“Adopting this policy change, expanding Medicaid to low-income, non-disabled adults has been associated with improvements in hospital profitability, reductions in unpaid care costs, and increased Medicaid-related reimbursements.” , she said.