This Week in the Legislature

The Joint Committee on Finance continues to make its way through the budget process. This week, JFC is meeting twice to approve various sections of the 2019-2021 State Budget.

On Tuesday, the big discussion was over the Department of Health Services – specifically Medicaid funding. Republicans on the committee approved a plan to spend an additional $588.2 million in general purpose revenue into the Medicaid program, pushing up reimbursement rates for hospitals, nursing homes, and personal care workers.

The investment of state tax dollars would mean an additional $858.4 million in federal funds that would help cover costs of the joint state-federal Medicaid program.

But Dems slammed the GOP proposal as inadequate because it didn't embrace Governor Tony Ever's call to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. They pointed out that approach would have saved the state $324 million in GPR while resulting in an additional $1.6 billion investment in health programs.

On Thursday, the committee will consider transportation funding. A group of Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced plans to increase local road funding by more than $130 million. The 10 Senate Republicans at the news conference included all six caucus members on the Joint Finance Committee. The plan includes giving each county $1 million and providing towns with $1,000 per mile of road in their jurisdictions.

The package would also be one-time money, taking advantage of new revenue projections the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released last month. The agency now projects an additional $753 million in revenue through mid-2021 compared to previous estimates. Still, it noted much of that was one-time money as taxpayers take advantage of the 2017 rewrite of the federal tax code.

In non-budget news, the Wisconsin State Senate was on the floor on Wednesday debating a series of bills, most notably four bills that dealt with abortion. Those included the banning of abortion based on the sex of the baby, requiring doctors to care for children born alive following abortion, and certain certifications of abortion providers. Evers has already announced he will veto all those bills. 

Next week's schedule has not been announced, but we expect the Joint Finance Committee to meet both Tuesday and Thursday again.

By, Jon Turke