After winning the election, Gov. Tony Evers developed his proposed budget based on the priorities he championed throughout his campaign, as well as the concerns that citizens voiced over the course of a series of statewide listening sessions.
Unfortunately, Republicans who control the legislature have announced they are prepared to block many popular provisions of the budget. Rather than embracing the wishes of voters and working to find compromise on critical issues, GOP leaders have voted to torpedo strongly supported provisions of the bill.
These included important aspects of middle class tax relief, closing the dark store property tax loophole, gerrymandering reform, increasing the minimum wage, offering a legal option for medical marijuana, and accepting federal funds to expand health care programs.
Among these, the cornerstone of the budget proposal is the expansion of health care under Medicaid. Not only would this provide health care to 82,000 more people, but it would also bring in $1.6 billion in federal funds, including an additional $324 million dollars that could be invested in other programs for the elderly and individuals with disabilities, dental care and mental health support. It is no wonder why 70 percent of Wisconsinites support this expansion.
It is important to underscore how important this funding will be locally in Kenosha County. Expanding Medicaid, along with other state investments, would provide an additional $63 million for programs in our county alone. This includes $1.2 million to expand access to mental health including crisis intervention, $1.6 million to prevent childhood lead poisoning through lead abatement and helping children with lead poisoning, $1.3 million to improve access to dental services by increasing payments to dental providers, as well as a number of equally critical programs to improve the health of our community.
It simply does not make sense that our state would turn away hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds every year that could provide critical services to our citizens. Wisconsin ranks 37th in terms of federal taxes we pay compared to the amount of federal funds we receive. Accepting this funding is a step toward ensuring our state gets a fairer deal.
Expanding this program means Wisconsin can fully utilize the federal law, as nearly three quarters of states controlled by both parties have, and collect the full funding we are entitled to receive.
I encourage you to contact Speaker Robin Vos and other Republican legislators to tell them it is time to accept the federal funds to expand health care in our state. It is time that we get our money back.
Rep.Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, represents the 65th Assembly district.