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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Issue of the Week: Walker’s $100 Million Health Care Tantrum

Plus: Hero of the Week

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The true cost of Gov. Scott Walker’s rejection of $3.9 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid programs for low-wage Wisconsinites is now being realized as legislators make their way through his biennial state budget.

Walker rejected the billions offered under the Affordable Care Act because he opposes anything President Obama supports, doesn’t appreciate the benefits of a publicly funded safety net and is trying to raise his national profile as a right-wing rock star who is a credible presidential contender in 2016.

The result of Walker’s political stunt is that it will cost state taxpayers an additional $100 million to provide health care coverage for 90,000 fewer Wisconsinites.

The cold, hard reality of Walker’s ideological rejection of the federal funding has now been made clear in an analysis by the nonpartisan, highly regarded Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB). Members of the budget-reviewing Joint Finance Committee (JFC) debated this analysis last week. According to the LFB’s calculations, the state could save $100 million in the next two years alone if it implemented Obamacare as it was intended.

But did Republicans on the committee, who try so hard to appear to be careful stewards of the taxpayers’ money, reconsider Walker’s rejection of the federal funds?

Nope.

State Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon was the only Republican on the committee to see through Walker’s $100 million con job. Unfortunately, State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), the JFC’s co-chair, sided with Walker, and not state taxpayers.

Similarly, Republicans don’t seem to be too bothered by a recent independent analysis by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service showing that, thanks to Walker’s Medicaid stunt, state businesses will have to pay an additional $36 million a year in penalties.

Nor were Republicans alarmed by an earlier report by Citizen Action of Wisconsin showing that a full implementation of federal health care reform would result in an additional $940 million in federal funds spent in the state and 10,500 more jobs.

Walker’s Medicaid rejection made no sense when it was first made public and it seems more irresponsible the more the we learn about it. The state Legislature must do the right thing and veto Walker’s proposal. Fully implementing health care reform in Wisconsin will bring more federal dollars into the state, create jobs and avoid hitting businesses with additional taxes. Even better, it will provide affordable health care coverage for struggling workers and reduce uncompensated care at hospitals, thereby lowering healthcare costs for everyone.

The JFC will conduct four public hearings in April on the state budget. The only Milwaukee-area hearing will be held on Thursday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Greendale High School Auditorium, 6801 Southway, Greendale.

Heroes of the Week: Supporting Our Music and Art Programs

On March 8, SERVE 60, Artists Working in Education, Inc. (AWE), the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and Gozamos online magazine kicked off Daylight Saving Time weekend with a benefit concert titled Looking Back, Moving Forward. This fundraising event, held at Stonefly Brewery, raised money to help support AWE’s and Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s educational art and music programs, as well as SERVE 60’s mission to increase volunteerism and community service initiatives supporting the arts across the country.

AWE, founded in 1998 by a group of Milwaukee-area art educators, museum curators and artists; and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, the oldest and largest independent, nonprofit music school in the state, both strive to provide youth and adult arts programs to advance learning and cultivate community and cultural enrichment. SERVE 60, founded in Milwaukee by L. Maxwell McKissick in 2009, is a national initiative designed to increase service and volunteerism nationally. By teaming together, these nonprofits hoped to raise awareness about budget cuts in school music and art programs and start a conversation that will serve as a future call to action for educators and parents alike.

More than 300 individuals attended this important event and more than $500 in net profit was raised. Musical performers and local artists included Esh the Singer, Fresh Cut Collective, Klassik, Jasmine Grant, Chantala Kommanivanh and Brandon Reyes.

For more information about these nonprofits or to check out volunteer opportunities, visit serve60.org, wcmusic.org and awe-inc.org.

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