Fitzgerald says he’s not ruling out accepting Medicaid expansion

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he’s not ruling out accepting the federal Medicaid expansion, a tenet of Gov.-elect Tony Evers’ campaign.

While the Juneau Republican said he doesn’t see support from his members “right now,” he added “there’s a lot of moving parts.”

“So I don’t want to be presumptuous and say it’s completely ruled out,” he told reporters at the Capitol during a year-end news conference Thursday.

Evers has said since winning the Nov. 6 election that accepting the Medicaid expansion dollars would be in his first budget. Gov. Scott Walker first rejected the federal funding in 2013.

Fitzgerald also signalled the Senate is open to Evers’ proposal to cut the income tax 10 percent.

“I think we’re always open to having that discussion,” he said. “The state’s in a great position, because of the policy decisions we’ve made.”

Fitzgerald says he’s guessing the Legislature will work off a base budget during the upcoming session, rather than Evers’ two-year plan.

Fitzgerald said he and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos are anticipating using the base and allowing the Joint Finance Committee to “build from there.”

While Fitzgerald was hesitant about dismissing Evers’ budget out right, he said he’s “still assuming” the Legislature will work off a base budget.

He’s also expecting to find areas of “common interest” with Evers and his incoming administration, including possible “veto assurances, where maybe he can keep his pen off” certain areas of the budget.

He noted that under Dem Gov. Jim Doyle’s first term, when Republicans held majorities in both the Senate and Assembly, there were “very little discussions” regarding veto assurances under Doyle’s first budget. But during his second, “there was a little more effort in that direction.”

“I’m hopeful that that process will emerge and kind of lend itself to cooperation along the way,” he said.

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback noted the guv-elect has been holding budget listening sessions around the state to hear “what the people of Wisconsin want in this budget.”

“So, it’s unfortunate that Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald are once again going to ignore the will of the people of Wisconsin by disregarding a budget crafted by and with the people of our state without ever having seen it,” she said.

Going into next session, Fitzgerald said he and Vos are prepared to work closely together, and will prime each of their caucuses to do the same.

He also said he expects “more give and take” between the two majorities since Walker won’t be there to drive policy or set “the table for the policy discussions.”

“We’re going to absolutely have to work closer together instead of kind of butting heads, which we’ve seen in some past budgets and some other individual pieces of legislation. And the speaker and I talked about that,” he said.

Fitzgerald expected the biggest differences between Evers’ budget priorities and legislative Republicans’ would be in the areas of transportation, Medicaid and K-12 funding.

Hear the audio:

By Briana Reilly