This Week in the Legislature A Lesson in How to Do Everything But Create Jobs
Because the legislative session will be coming to a close in April, many legislators are rushing to pass their bills before that time. The Democrats have been filling up the weekly calendars with bills they deem to be a high-priority in hopes that their proposals will make it through both houses and be signed by Governor Doyle before the clock runs out.
So, given that we have to do the most important things now before it's too late, and the most important thing right now is making sure that Wisconsin's unemployed citizens have jobs, you'd think we would be deliberating on job-creation ideas right? Wrong.
This week some of the bigger items debated on the Assembly floor included overriding the Governor's veto on the appointment of the DNR Secretary, creating a public health care option -further expanding Wisconsin'sgovernment-run health care program, and outlawing American Indian mascots and logos in public schools.
Earlier this year, Governor Doyle vetoed a bill that would have banned the practice of allowing the Governor to appoint the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, transferring the duty to the hands of the Natural Resources Board. This is one of the only times I have been able to say that I agree with the Governor. I voted against overriding the veto. The override, initiated by a few Democrats, failed to pass by the necessary 2/3 vote.
In my office I have received more than 70 calls from people who were in favor of leaving the current process in place, and 4 calls from those who would have liked to have seen the responsibility moved to the Natural Resources Board. I voted the way my constituents asked because I believe leaving the appointment process up to the governor - whether Democrat or Republican - is the best way. Voters have the right to replace the governor if they don't like his decisions, they can't change the membership of the Natural Resources Board if they don't agree with them. Allowing unelected citizens to decide who will run one of the most powerful agencies in state government is simply unfair to the voters of Wisconsin.
Also, this week, Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of more government-run health care. This new public option scheme is being proposed to cover those who are on the waiting list for another new government run health care program created less than a year ago.
In the last budget, Governor Doyle and Democrats created BadgerCare Plus for childless adults at a cost of $228 million even though the Medicaid program was facing a $625 million shortfall. Because the Department of Health Services didn't make an accurate prediction as to how many might sign up for the new program, there is a waiting list of 21,000 adults and a cost overrun of more than $120 million. So the Democrats' answer is to create another new program to provide insurance to those on the waiting list.
This new plan, known as Badger Care Basic, will allow those on the waiting list to purchase insurance from the state at a cost of $130 per month while they wait to be accepted to BadgerCare Plus. The state plans to keep the premium low by rationing care and by exempting itself from a Wisconsin law imposed on private health insurancecompanies which specifies they must cover specific procedures and diseases.
Those who support the plan claim it will fund itself through the premium and require no additional state dollars. However, almost half of those on the waiting list are under 30 years of age. Meaning they are most likely healthy and would be eligible for private insurance plans that cost less than this, or just won't carry insurance while on the waiting list.
This means that the only ones who will take advantage of this plan are those who have chronic health conditions that would ordinarily cause their insurance to be much more expensive because of the risk. This will no doubt create a scenario known as "adverse selection" in which the premiums will not be enough to cover the cost of healthcare for those needing it. This will likely result in less reimbursement to health care providers, more rationing of care, and ultimately, the government will have to kick in more money to cover the cost of a failed program.
The legislature did do one meaningful this this week in federalizing the Internal Revenue Code provisions relating to retirement accounts. You may remember that I wrote a few weeks ago, that due to the inaction of Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee, many Wisconsinites would be unfairly punished if they planned on converting from a traditional to a Roth IRA. Thankfully, the bill to fix this passed the Assembly and now moves on to the Senate for approval.
Despite that one worthwhile action, there is still no jobs agenda to be found from the Democrats, even though the jobs issue is number one on the minds of most Wisconsin citizens. For some reason they find it's more worthwhile to provide government-run health care to those that don't have jobs and to focus on less-pressing environmental issues, than to foster an economic environment in Wisconsin that ensures we have good paying jobs for all our citizens.
Make sure to watch my eupdate over the next couple weeks, as I will be unveiling my job-creation agenda.
State Representative Robin Vos State Capitol - Room 321 East - Post Office Box 8953 - Madison, Wisconsin 53708 Phone: (608) 266-9171 - Toll Free: (888) 534-0063 - Fax (608) 282-3663 Email: Rep.Vos@legis.wisconsin.gov On the Internet: Representative Vos' Web Site