THU PM Update: Evers not giving up on Medicaid proposal, Vos fires back guv misleading public

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— Gov. Tony Evers said today he’s not giving up on his proposal to expand Medicaid despite JFC Republicans’ plan to pull it from the budget, but he stopped short of saying he would veto a budget that didn’t include it.

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, dug in over his opposition to the plan and accused the guv of misleading the public.

During a Milwaukee news conference, Evers highlighted the federal money his proposal would draw, along with money the state would save while expanding Medicaid coverage to 82,000 residents. He was joined by Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Dem lawmakers, city officials and supporters

He said Medicaid expansion has wide public support — 70 percent of voters backed the move in the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll — and Evers urged residents to contact lawmakers on the issue.

Asked if he would veto a budget without Medicaid expansion, Evers said he believed GOP lawmakers could be convinced to support it with enough public pressure.

“We’re not ceding one foot on this,” Evers said. “People are operating under the premise that we can’t get Republican support.”

Vos, speaking with reporters at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport, said Evers’ proposal would undermine the private health insurance market and put the state at risk if the federal government backs off its funding commitment for the expansion.

He said about half of the people who would be covered by the expansion are already on private insurance, while the rest are already eligible for plans under the federal exchanges. He said he believes the average out-of-pocket premium cost in the Milwaukee market would be 18 cents per month with a $50 deductible.

“Yes, changes need to be made. And we are more than willing to make sure that anybody who has not taken advantage of the current offering under Obamacare has the ability to sign up for that, they have the ability to access that care,” Vos said without providing details.

Vos said Evers and Dems have been misleading in making the case for expansion.

“There are definite downsides, but the Democrats and Gov. Evers choose to only talk about half of the equation, and frankly, they’re misleading,” Vos said.

— Vos was joined at the press conference by GOP lawmakers who went with him on a trip to D.C., where they met with the state’s congressional delegation and attended a fundraiser.

Dems knocked Republicans yesterday for announcing plans to strip the guv’s Medicaid proposal from the budget at the same time they were out of town for a fundraiser benefiting the state GOP. The event included donations of $1,000 per person and up to $5,000 to be a host.

Vos said the Legislative Fiscal Bureau releases its list of non-fiscal policy items between when the budget hearings are finished and voting begins, and he does not pick that date.

“Unfortunately, this is another bit of the naivete of how Gov. Evers is just getting his sea legs. He’s got to understand the process,” Vos said.

Listen to the Dem presser:

Listen to the GOP presser:

— Dem Rep. Chris Taylor fired back that JFC Republicans “have cotton balls in their ears” on the topic of Medicaid expansion and urged her Republican colleagues “to not follow Robin Vos off a cliff.”

“It seems that it is the speaker in the Assembly that is so dead set against providing health care to people,” the Madison Dem said.

Taylor was joined by JFC Dem Sens. LaTonya Johnson and Jon Erpenbach, who noted that while Vos was unlikely to change his position on Medicaid, several Republicans within his caucus might.

“I think if you talked to some of the members individually within their caucus, they would support the Medicaid expansion because they understand the positive impact it would have on their district,” he said.

Johnson, meanwhile, warned that her Republican JFC colleagues were becoming “disjointed from what the people in our communities want.”

“It’s not about making sure that as elected officials, we follow the will of our caucus, it’s about making sure that we follow the will of the people, the people who send us here to take these votes,” she said.

— While JFC Republican are pulling Evers’ marijuana provisions from the budget, Vos said he continues to support legalizing medical marijuana and hopes to address the issue in fall after the budget is complete.

“It’s not going to happen in the budget; that’s D.O.A. inside the budget,” Vos said. “But my hope is we’ll have the ability to work together to perhaps sit at the same table and talk about the ideas and bring something back this fall once we’ve gotten past the heated rhetoric of the budget.”

JFC Republicans are, however, planning to leave intact Evers’ proposed excise tax on e-cigarettes and little cigars — at least for now.

Joint Finance Committee Co-chairs Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and John Nygren, R-Marinette, yesterday identified 131 fiscal as well as policy provisions they plan to include in a motion to remove from the document when the panel convenes May 9.

Although they targeted Evers’ plan to legalize medical marijuana, including his proposed excise tax amounting to a 10 percent surcharge on the dispensary list price of products, the document didn’t mention the provisions surrounding e-cigarettes and little cigars.

Evers’ budget would create an excise tax on e-cigarettes that is expected to generate $34.7 million over the biennium. His excise tax on little cigars, meanwhile, would bring in an additional $6.8 million over the next two years, according to his budget.

See the JFC memo:

— Darling’s return from a GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C., was delayed after she fell at the airport and doctors wanted to keep her for observation.

A Darling spokesman said she was fine and passed medical tests with flying colors.

— Gov. Tony Evers said he intended to tell Foxconn CEO Terry Gou he is looking forward to making sure the company is successful here in what was to be their first meeting.

“I will say hello, Chairman Gou. It’s great to see you and I’m looking forward to making sure you’re successful in the state of Wisconsin, that we protect the taxpayers and environmental standards that we have in the state,” Evers said. “So I’m looking forward to that.”

Gou’s visit to Wisconsin comes on the heels of the company founder meeting with President Trump yesterday in Washington, D.C. The company said the two “discussed the latest updates and the positive progress of the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park project among other matters.”

Evers’ office didn’t release a statement on what was discussed today during the meeting in Milwaukee.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Secretary and CEO Mark Hogan was also meeting with Gou today. But the agency downplayed the significance of the get-together, which follows a string of headlines about the company’s intentions for its southeastern Wisconsin facility.

“He has regular contact with Foxconn executives, and this meeting is no different than the discussions he has with company officials on a regular basis,” said WEDC spokesman Kelly Lietz.

Ahead of the meeting, Vos said he hoped it would mark a turning point from the rhetoric around the project.

“My hope is that we’re turning a corner, that perhaps today Gov. Evers finally has accepted the fact that Gov. Walker and the Republicans negotiated a really good deal for the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “And perhaps hearing it directly from Chairman Gou’s own mouth he’ll be able to accept the reality that Foxconn is going to be a huge benefit for our state and we should all celebrate.”

Vos met with Gou as well, releasing a statement through his office that it was “another positive step forward in the development of the Foxconn project in Racine County.”

When the Foxconn project was first unveiled, the company announced plans for large screen production at what’s known as a Gen 10 facility as part of a $10 billion investment with plans to hire up to 13,000 people. But it then scaled back to a Gen 6 fabrication facility.

Ahead of the meeting, Vos said if the company wants changes concerning language about the type of facility, “they should, of course, go to WEDC” to make changes. Under lame-duck laws, the GOP Legislature controls the WEDC board.

— An Assembly panel canceled an exec on a number of drunken driving measures that were originally scheduled to be voted on this morning.

The bills before the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee would criminalize first offense OWI and create mandatory minimum sentences for fifth and sixth offense OWI and homicide by an intoxicated driver, among other things.

But Rep. Jim Ott, the author of all but one of the measures, said a lack of communication left his office scrambling to get a vote count.

“As of yesterday morning, I didn’t know that some people were not going to vote for the bill because they don’t like mandatory minimums,” he said, before noting that such opposition is usually brought to the bill author’s attention.

The Mequon Republican also pointed to a slate of late amendments that had the potential to divide support of several other measures. He pointed to an amendment offered on AB 16, which would allocate $3.3 million towards prison-based treatment programs for fifth and sixth offenses. Though well-intentioned, Ott said, that amount of money was “outrageous” considering there were only 581 fifth and sixth offense OWI convictions in the state in 2017.

In those cases, Ott said he wanted to speak with the authors of the amendments to gauge if they would support his bills without the amendments attached.

Ott said that he was confident that at least two of the measures, AB 15 and 18, would have passed and that he would have liked to go ahead with the exec. But the Mequon Republican said committee Chairman John Spiros, R-Marshfield, asked him to round up a more accurate vote tally before going head with the exec.

Ott says he is hopeful the committee will exec on his bills next Wednesday.

— Reps. Travis Tranel and Michael Schraa today blasted a recently enacted Department of Corrections program intended to help address severe prison guard vacancies at maximum security prisons.

The Critical Vacancy Add-On Pilot Program, which went into effect on April 28, provides a $5- per-hour boost for correctional staff at every maximum security prison in the state except for the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility at Boscobel.

Tranel, R-Cuba City, ripped that decision, which he labeled as “not very well thought out,” adding it “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“If I was in Boscobel, I would put in for a transfer right away,” he told “I would hate to be there right now. I can only imagine what staff morale is like.”

In a document laying out information on the pilot program, the DOC notes that the six facilities eligible for the program — Columbia Correctional Institution, Dodge, Green Bay, Taycheedah and Waupun plus Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools — were selected after analyzing several factors. These included security needs, vacancy rates, trends on recruitment and retention, and inmate populations plus environmental factors. The prison in Boscobel, which was not included, is in Tranel’s district.

Vacancy rates provided to by the DOC show that as of April 27, the six facilities eligible for the pilot program have on average double the vacancy percentage of that at the Boscobel facility.

A check on the overtime reports submitted to the Joint Finance Committee in January also shows that prison guards at the five adult facilities eligible for the pilot program logged on average nearly three times the number of overtime hours in fiscal year 2018 as corrections officers at the Boscobel facility. The five facilities on average paid $3,636,165 in overtime costs, nearly three times the $1,264,069 amount paid out to guards Boscobel. The Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools are not adult facilities and were not included in the report listing overtime hours and compensation.

A DOC spokeswoman acknowledged the move “will create challenges” at facilities not eligible for the pay bump but said it was meant to be a “short-term solution to much larger problems that have been facing the DOC for years.”

“We recognize all facilities and classifications of employees are deserving of more competitive wages,” the spokeswoman said in a statement, “Unfortunately, change takes time.”

Schraa, the chair of the Assembly Corrections Committee, criticized the move as “well-intentioned, but perhaps not thoroughly vetted.”

In an interview with, the Oshkosh Republican expressed irritation that lawmakers working to include pay raises and other retention measures for correctional staff were not consulted ahead of the program’s rollout.

“My frustration is that they knew what we were working on and all day long I’ve had to put out fires,” he said. “I’ve received 50-plus emails and countless phone calls from individuals who feel like they were slighted.”

Schraa noted that the DOC budget that would soon be before the JFC would have included a bump in starting pay for correctional staff to $19 per hour but said the fiscal analysis would have to be reworked to take the pilot program into account.

Tranel said in a statement that the facility “should be rewarded- not punished,” for the low turnover and vacancy rates. The Cuba City Republican said he would have liked to see all correctional staff at maximum security facilities made eligible for the pay bump and noted that he believed medium-security prison guards deserved a pay increase as well.

See Tranel’s statement:

Rep. Tranel: Boscobel prison guards excluded from pay raise by Gov. Evers’ Department of Corrections

See Schraa’s statement:

See the Critical Vacancy Add-On Pilot Progam background documents:

See DOC overtime report:

— Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin is doing another round of door hangers, this time praising GOP Sens. Alberta Darling and Dan Feyen while knocking Dem Sen. Jennifer Shilling for praising Gov. Tony Evers’ budget.

The Darling door hanger praises her for supporting legislation to “create more opportunity for Wisconsinites.” The Feyen hanger says he’s “fighting for tax relief.”

See the Darling door hanger:

See Feyen’s:

See Shilling’s:

— Waukesha attorney Matthew Fernholz said he won’t run against 2nd District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer next year. reported last month that Fernholz was weighing a bid. He said he’ll instead support Judge Paul Bugenhagen in his challenge of Neubauer, who lost a Supreme Court race this spring.

Fernholz also said he plans to take a “hard look” at running in 2021 depending on who Gov. Tony Evers appoints to fill the seat on the 2nd District of Brian Hagedorn, who beat Neubauer for a seat on the Supreme Court.


LRB-3051 & LRB-3128: Restore the ability of a school board to adopt a resolution to exceed its revenue limit by the amount spent on energy efficiency projects. By Rep. Gruszynski and Sen. Miller.

LRB-3109/1 & 0530/1: Allows signatures to be notarized remotely online. By Reps. Ballweg, Summerfield and Haywood and Sens. Olsen and Taylor.

LRB-2022/3 & LRB- 2671/2: Helps alleviate the need for qualified dentists by creating a dental scholarship program that requires recipients to work in rural areas. By Reps. Kurtz, James, Edming, Felzkowski, Krug, Kulp, Mursau, Oldenburg, Petryk, Plumer, Quinn, Snyder, Spiros, Summerfield, Swearingen, Tauchen, Tranel, Tusler, VanderMeer, Zimmerman and Sens. Testin and Tiffany.

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– 7:45 a.m. – 9 a.m.: MMAC Policy Hash with Wisconsin Policy Forum President Rob Henken.

– 10 a.m.: PSC hearing.

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