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— In the midst of a heated gubernatorial campaign, Tony Evers made virtually no changes to his finances, according to investment disclosures filed with the state Ethics Commission.
Evers’ most recent Statement of Economic Interest — which was filed three weeks after his inauguration as governor and covers calendar year 2018 — shows the guv holds investments totaling at least $440,000.
Aside from a dip in honorarium expenses from the previous year’s report, the most recent filing shows Evers’ financial situation changed little over the last year. The guv did not invest in or divest of any additional financial interests while battling through a congested Dem primary field and campaigning against Scott Walker in the general.
That includes investments in energy companies totaling at least $25,000. The state GOP targeted those during the waning weeks of the campaign.
In an October 2018 memo knocking Evers for so-called “investment hypocrisy,” the party highlighted an oil spill caused by a ruptured line operated by Buckeye Partners that contaminated drinking water for hundreds of people in Jackson, Wis.
It also pointed to a 2012 Business Insider report that listed both Oneok and Buckeye Partners as being among the 16 pipeline companies with the most incidents, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“It’s absolutely hypocritical that he has invested in a significant number of fossil fuels companies state GOP spokesman Charles Nichols said today. “These are what some people would consider some of the largest polluters in the business.”
An Evers spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.
The SEI disclosures list only broad ranges for investments and debts. For example, investments have to be detailed only if they’re worth $5,000 to $50,000 or more than $50,000. Evers’ most recent disclosure shows that none of his investments changed category during the previous calendar year.
— The GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee voted to wipe out some of the pillars of Dem Tony Evers’ budget, including an expansion of Medicaid the guv depended upon for a $1.6 billion boost in health care spending over the next two years.
GOP Sen. Luther Olsen, who has expressed an openness to accepting the federal money to expand Medicaid, voted with his fellow Republicans as the motion cleared 11-4.
The Medicaid expansion would have extended coverage under the program to an estimated 82,000. It also would have saved the state $324.5 million in general purpose revenue over the next two years while drawing nearly $1.1 billion in additional federal aid.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said Evers’ budget was “so tightly wound” with the Medicaid expansion that pulling it out threatened funding for a host of other programs. That included, he said, money for K-12 and expanding access to behavioral health.
He said Republicans had turned their backs on accepting the money for six years, making excuse after excuse for refusing to expand the program.
“You’re out of excuses, and you’re out of time,” Erpenbach said.
But Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, ticked off a series of healthcare proposals such as a dementia care specialist, dental programs and coordinating services for drug treatment that remain in the document. She pledged Republicans would still find ways to fund those priorities without the expansion money.
“A lot of what we’re hearing that we’re not going to be able to do because we’re not taking the expansion are simply false,” Loudenbeck said.
The motion covered 131 items that ran the gamut from Evers’ proposal to raise taxes on manufacturers, which would have generated $516.6 million over the next two years, to his plan to legalize medical marijuana. Evers also included in his budget proposals to allow retired teachers to return to the classroom but still continue claiming their pensions to help relieve the shortage in Wisconsin; moving 17-year-olds back to the juvenile justice system from adult courts; and a study to look at creating a refinancing authority for student loans. The motion removed all of them.
The move would mean $1.4 billion less going to the general fund over the next two years and $1.1 billion less in federal aid, much of that which would’ve gone to the Medicaid expansion.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, accused Republicans of pulling the provisions to benefit their wealthy supporters at the expense of the poor, who were in line for a minimum wage increase and the Medicaid expansion in Evers’ budget. It was a charge Republicans hotly denied.
Still, much of the debate focused on healthcare.
Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said Republicans ran on providing affordable health care to their constituents, but when it comes time to deliver on those promises, they’re rejecting money that would be invested in their districts. He ticked off lines from GOP members’ campaign websites saying what they told voters doesn’t match their actions on the first motion before the committee.
“Medicaid is being removed in this first motion because you’re losing. This is a popular item supported by the people of the state of Wisconsin and every single day it’s getting more popular.”
Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, countered Goyke’s argument laid out the core differences between the two parties. While Dems assume the only way to provide affordable health care is to turn to the government, Republicans view the private sector as a partner in that endeavor, Born added.
“Somehow, the only way can have affordable health care is to have it be a welfare program, to have it be government-run, to have the taxpayers pay for all of it,” Born said.
— In a statement after today’s vote, Evers said Republicans “must be held accountable for their decisions on healthcare, not just here in the Capitol, but back in their communities.”
Leading up to the vote, Evers had been encouraging people via social media to contact lawmakers and lobby them to embrace the proposed expansion.
He said Republicans now need to go back to their communities and explain why they turned down money that could’ve been used to improve maternal health, invest in mental health and substance abuse treatment to help curb the opioid epidemic, and invest in programs such as SeniorCare.
“[A]ll we hear from Republicans is ‘no,'” Evers said. “They refuse to listen to the will of the people or work together and Wisconsinites will pay the price. Today Republicans took a fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible vote to blow a $1.4 billion hole in The People’s Budget.”
— Ahead of the vote, Evers touted some of his budget proposals at a separate Capitol event by signing a proclamation declaring today Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.
“My budget identifies ways in which we can strategically support children’s mental health services,” he said.
But central to those initiatives, he said, was accepting the Medicaid expansion to widen the scope of behavioral health services. He pointed out a nonprofit organization that served kids with mental health issues, but whose budget didn’t cover the overwhelming demand and had to seek donations in order to continue providing services.
“God knows we have a great philanthropic community in Wisconsin, but you just can’t rely on that,” he said. “We have to have more support.”
— JFC rejected Evers’ call to give municipalities a $15.1 million boost in state aid during the second year of the budget.
The guv wanted to give each community a 2 percent increase in state aid after cuts over the past 15 years left county and municipal aids 20.7 percent lower in 2019 than in 2003.
But Republicans rejected a Dem motion to embrace the plan, leaving current law in place. Funding would remain at $763.1 million annually.
The committee’s first motion of the day also pulled out Evers’ proposal to allow local governments to increase their property tax levies by at least 2 percent.
Milwaukee Dems Sen. LaTonya Johnson and Rep. Evan Goyke told the committee their hometown has chafed under the combination of declining state aid and state-imposed limits on property tax levies.
Goyke said the situation leaves property-poor communities, both in urban and rural areas, in a vicious cycle. They can’t provide services, which leads to a decline in the quality of life, which prompts people to move, which drives down property values, which then results in those communities getting less aid from the state as their populations drop.
“The way that we stop that cycle is we invest in local communities,” Goyke said. “We admit today that we have not fixed this problem over the last eight years.”
JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said Republicans haven’t discussed yet whether to revisit the property tax caps and consider relaxing current limits, which essentially restrict local governments to growth for new construction. But he noted Republicans have consistently sought to keep property tax bills flat.
“Anything is possible,” Nygren said. “But the goal is still fiscal restraint.”
— The Joint Finance Committee largely backed a series of Evers’ proposals to address treating those with mental health issues but added several caveats over the objections of Dems.
For example, the committee supported the creation of a new unit for initial intake, triage and treatment of patients upon arriving at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute, helping to address staffing issues.
But Republicans modified it to provide about $1.1 million less, because the positions wouldn’t be funded until three months into the first year of the biennium.
Evers proposed $12.3 million in program revenue and 51 positions to create a separate admissions unit and increase evening and nighttime supervisory staff.
The state has two mental health hospitals with the other in Madison. In 2014, the state directed all emergency detentions of adult males to go to Winnebago but didn’t add staff. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau noted a staffing study found the change in policy alone wasn’t a problem. But the unpredictability and high frequency of admissions, along with the demands of those patients, put a strain on the existing staff.
The committee also:
*unanimously approved Evers’ proposal to provide $3.4 million in the second year of the budget and 36.5 positions to operate a 290-bed unit for those committed to the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston for committing a crime.
*modified Evers’ proposal to allocate $17.4 million to cover anticipated overtime costs at seven residential institutions that include mental health hospitals and centers and facilities for those with intellectual disabilities. While Republicans approved the money, they also added a requirement that nearly $3.9 million of it would be held back in the JFC supplemental appropriation. The administration could then come to the agency to request the money to be released as needed.
*agreed to provide $6.5 million to expand capacity at the centers that provide mental health and substance abuse treatment and behavior management for inmates referred by the Department of Corrections. But Republicans added a provision to reduce the DOC’s budget for contract beds by nearly $2.2 million. Republicans argued the funding for the contract beds, which are at county jails, wouldn’t be needed with the increased capacity at the treatment centers. Dems warned against making that assumption.
*supported nearly $2.9 million over the budget for youth crisis stabilization facility grants and peer-run respite center for veterans.
— In other action, the committee:
*Approved the guv’s proposal to add $1 million in program revenue annually to expand the Medical College of Wisconsin’s family residency training programs in Appleton and Eau Claire as the state looks to churn out more doctors. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau noted a study found the projected demand for primary care physicians in 2035 will outpace projected supply. The additional funding would come on top of the $4.6 million annually the state dedicates to the program.
But the committee rejected Evers’ plan to spend an additional $743,500 annually on tuition assistance for in-state students in the Medical College of Wisconsin’s family medicine residency training program. The money would’ve amounted to another $1,408 in tuition assistance to Wisconsin residents enrolled as medical students at the college. They now receive $3,644 annually.
*approved giving the Ethics Commission $1,600 annually to cover the costs of commissioners’ per diems.
*signed off on $640,000 from tribal gaming money for a youth substance abuse treatment center led by the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.
*approved a request from the Wisconsin Historical Society to convert limited-term employees to classified permanent positions. But JFC Republicans also voted to cut agency funding by $271,400, which members said was how much the Historical Society said it was losing due to turnover of LTE employees. The agency noted in its request that it could cover the costs of the conversion through existing funds. Still, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau also noted there could be additional costs in future years if more employees become eligible for fringe benefits or raises they otherwise wouldn’t receive.
— JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, declared today he sees no possibility for a compromise on the guv’s call to expand the Medicaid program.
“From there, it becomes Medicaid-lite,” Nygren told reporters ahead of today’s vote to remove the item from the budget.
Nygren said the decision by Republicans to reject the expansion six years ago still put the state on a path to provide coverage through Medicaid to everyone below the federal poverty line and to move others into federal exchanges offered through the Affordable Care Act.
“Once you go down that Medicaid route, once you cover people on Medicaid between 101 and 138 percent (of the federal poverty level), … that’s an even more difficult decision if the federal government goes in a different direction,” Nygren said.
Nygren told reporters the goal is to have the budget on Evers’ desk by the last week of June. He said that would mean voting it out of Finance by mid-June.
He also wished a speedy recovery to fellow Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, who missed today’s hearing while recovering from a fall while on a fundraising trip to Washington, D.C.
“Things are headed in the right direction,” Nygren said. “She got her cell phone back yesterday, so she’s already engaging.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters he doesn’t expect any delays stemming from Darling’s absence, adding he anticipates she’ll be “back sometime in the very near future.”
The Rochester Republican said he spoke with Darling today and described her as “upbeat, positive” and that she “sounds like she’s recovering well.”
— JFC members are planning to meet again Tuesday to vote on budgets for the state treasurer, Elections Commission and Employee Trust Funds.
They’ll also take up Safety and Professional Services, the Board on Aging and Long-Term Care and Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, State Fair Park and more.
The meeting notice again lists JFC Vice-chair Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, as co-chairing the hearing. He also co-chaired today’s meeting in Darling’s place.
See the full agenda:
— A series of abortion-related bills cleared Assembly and Senate committees today, setting them up for future floor votes.
But members of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee ended up voting against a bill that would outline care requirements for children born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion.
The other GOP bills include measures to: bar Planned Parenthood from getting money under the Medical Assistance program; ban abortions on the basis of a fetus’ race, gender and other qualifiers; and require physicians to tell women considering taking an abortion-inducing drug the process could be reversed.
The bills were all passed amid opposition from legislative Dems across the committees. In the two Senate panels — the Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection, and Health and Human Services committees — the legislation passed along party lines.
But in the Assembly Health Committee, which took up all four bills this morning, the legislation didn’t get the support of Dems and one Republican: Rep. Chuck Wichgers, of Muskego.
Wichgers had introduced an amendment to the born alive bill, which outlines care requirements for children born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion, as well as penalties for physicians who don’t adhere to the legislation.
But under the bill, the mother of the child who is born alive couldn’t be prosecuted.
Wichgers’ amendment sought to remove the immunity for the mother and insert language saying a parent or guardian couldn’t be held civilly or criminally responsible for violations they didn’t consent to.
The language, he said, would address an exception in the bill and clear up the “murky waters” made through extending immunity to the child’s mother.
“If anybody in the room participates with the consent of the homicide, they have to be held accountable in a civilized society,” he said. “So I have to weigh my vote, are we giving an exception to homicide in this bill? And I believe we do.”
Meanwhile, the committee also only passed one of the bills looking to bar Planned Parenthood from getting money under the Medical Assistance program, AB 183. Chair Rep. Joe Sanfelippo opted to remove a similar bill, by Sen. Andre Jacque and Rep. Janel Brandtjen, from the calendar during today’s meeting.
Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, said he expects AB 183 is the version of the bill that will move through the Senate.
Those four bills are all on the finalized Assembly floor calendar for next week. The session is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
See the final calendar:
— Sen. Andre Jacque sided with his Dem counterparts on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee today to oppose the born alive bill.
Jacque, R-DePere, said in a statement the bill if passed in its current form, it “would damage existing protections for born-alive infants.” With his opposition, the committee vote was 2-3 on passage.
Jacque, like Wichgers, is seeking to amend the bill to insert language saying a parent or guardian couldn’t be held civilly or criminally responsible for violations they didn’t consent to. But he said in his statement the bill’s co-authors “are currently unwilling to consider such changes.”
“The necessary changes I have proposed do not conflict with their stated intentions for the bill, nor would they lose the bill any support- while allowing the full pro-life movement to embrace the bill without reservations,” Jacque said.
— Wisconsin veterans called for lawmakers to keep Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to legalize medical marijuana in the state budget.
At a Capitol news conference today ahead of the Joint Finance Committee meeting, veterans outlined the ways that cannabis has helped them deal with depression, PTSD and other chronic pain-related illnesses.
States that have legalized marijuana for medical use have seen decreases in opioid use and opioid-related deaths, said Alan Robinson, executive director of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Legalizing cannabis, he added, would safeguard Wisconsinites’ lives and money.
Meanwhile, Andrea Roberts, a former Marine and co-founder of Wisconsin Veterans for Compassionate Care, said she had previously needed to take 11,000 “ineffective and addictive” pills per year to manage her depression and chronic illness.
Cannabis had lowered that number to “a small handful” and given her “peace of mind,” she said. For veterans, she added, peace of mind “is elusive and hard to come by.”
Roberts lamented the way that her usage of medical marijuana “puts me at odds with the law, so I have to risk my voting rights, my military pension, my disability, to access a drug that makes me better.”
“Doctors upon doctors have been following my progress for years, I’ve never had to increase my dosage, it’s never been a detriment to my life. I’m better because of it,” Roberts said.
The pair also slammed state lawmakers, particularly Republicans, for failing to address the issue.
“Around election times we’re carted out like a prop, to say ‘we really support our veterans, we stand for veterans,'” Roberts said of GOP lawmakers who oppose medical marijuana legalization. “They might stand for veterans, but they don’t do any substantive work,” she added.
“We shouldn’t have to beg (for treatment),” she said.
Although JFC Republican are pulling Evers’ marijuana provisions from the budget, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said he continues to support legalizing medical marijuana and hopes to address the issue in fall after the budget is complete.
Other marijuana-related provisions the guv included in his plan were also singled out by the committee for removal, including his proposed medical marijuana excise tax amounting to a 10 percent surcharge on the dispensary list price of products.
— Evers today named Dane County Dem Chair Michael Basford as the executive director of the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Basford, whose appointment will be confirmed by the council at its next meeting, has a lengthy resume working on homeless issues. He currently serves as associate director at Housing Initiatives, Inc., and has also worked on Dane County Homeless Services Consortium, the Dane County Homeless Issues Committee, and the Dane County Poverty Task Force.
“Homelessness and housing insecurity affect kids in the classroom, it affects our criminal justice system, and it affects economic development in our communities–we really have to start connecting the dots,” said Evers. “I look forward to working with Michael, the other Council members, legislators, and stakeholders to get to work on addressing these issues in Wisconsin.”
— The pro-Trump America First Action is planning to spend $250 million in six battleground states as part of an effort to boost the president’s re-election chances, but Wisconsin isn’t one of them.
The Hill reported the states are Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia. Each has at least 15 electoral votes, and the outlet reported the group’s leaders believe a Trump victory is all but guaranteed if he wins all six.
Wisconsin, which Trump won with 47.2 percent of the vote, has 10 electoral votes.
The Hill reported Wisconsin is one of several smaller states that the group is eyeing as possible targets.
SJR 32: Proclaiming May 2019 as Paper and Forestry Products Month in Wisconsin. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.
SJR 33: Mississippi River System. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.
SJR 34: Honoring the Marshall High School Girls Basketball team in their consecutive WIAA State Championship victories. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.
SJR 35: Proclaiming September 7, 2019, as Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Appreciation Day. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.
AJR 40: Honoring the Marshall High School Girls Basketball team in their consecutive WIAA State Championship victories. Referred to Committee on Rules.
AJR 41: Proclaiming May 2019 as Wisconsin Motherhood Month. Referred to Committee on Rules.
Track bills for free:
AP: Wisconsin Republicans votes to scrap Evers proposals
Journal Sentinel: More than 11,000 children in Milwaukee are not vaccinated, creating risk for measles outbreak https://jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/05/09/milwaukee-vulnerable-measles-outbreak-11-000-unvaccinated-kids/1121045001/
State Journal: GOP lawmakers vote to scrap Tony Evers’ plans to expand Medicaid, hike taxes, overhaul pot laws
Capital Times: UW’s Institute for Research on Poverty joins network to fight opioid addiction
Capital Times: ‘Cancer in the culture:’ Military sexual trauma is ‘getting worse, not better,’ offering limited justice to survivors
AP: Wisconsin committee signs off on anti-abortion bills
Politico: Burr holds firm despite GOP anger over Don Jr. subpoena
Politico: Trump goes on a new tear against Mueller
CNN: Fear of getting “Hillary’d” in 2020: Women voters still haunted by 2016 as they size up the female candidates
CNN: Trump to nominate Shanahan as defense secretary
CNN: Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation to improve maternal health, particularly for black mothers
– 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.: MMAC Expert Series: Assessing Your Talent with Accenture Management Consulting Senior Managers Kathy Henrich and Natalie Wrobleski.
– 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.: Milwaukee Press Club’s Gridiron Dinner. Journalist Chuck Todd is to receive the group’s Sacred Cat Award, and former Gov. Martin Schreiber and former United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County CEO Mary Lou Young will be honored as 2019 Headliners.
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