MILWAUKEE — Gov.-elect Tony Evers says his first budget will propose to expand Medicaid health coverage to 80,000 Wisconsinites — and that he’ll enlist the state’s health care industry and visit Republican-leaning areas to try to sell the plan to a deeply skeptical GOP Legislature.
Evers spoke to reporters Wednesday after touring the Sixteenth Street Clinic in Milwaukee.
Asked about Republican lawmakers’ discussion of changing the date of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary, Evers called it “a very questionable proposal.”
Evers pledged on the campaign trail that if elected, he would propose to expand Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. On Wednesday, Evers confirmed “it’s going to be in our budget” for the two-year cycle starting in July.
Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Scott Walker have resisted Medicaid expansion since he took office in 2011, and Wisconsin is now one of 17 states that has not yet done it.
Evers on Wednesday said “leadership is what caused that to fail,” adding that he expects to win Republican votes for the proposal.
“There’s lots of people out there that work in the health care industry that frankly voted for Gov. Walker that I think can help change that dialogue,” Evers said.
Evers also said he will take the plan to voters throughout the state, citing the Fox Valley in particular.
“We’ll be taking this budget out to the people of the state of Wisconsin, and in Republican areas, we’ll be talking about this,” Evers said.
Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, said shortly after the election that “Medicaid expansion is not on the list of priorities for the Assembly.”
Vos, asked in October if he’d consider Medicaid expansion if Evers won the election, told reporters it’s “not going to happen. Never.”
“I don’t want more people on government-run health care,” Vos said.
Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Walker have said there are talks about moving Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary, now set for April.
That election also is when Walker’s most recent state Supreme Court appointee, conservative-backed Justice Daniel Kelly, would stand for election if he seeks another term.
Evers said he’s concerned by opposition from local election clerks to moving the presidential primary. They have said the move would create millions in costs for taxpayers and administrative nightmares for election officials by creating a new statewide election to run.
The presidential primary could see robust Democratic voter turnout because Democrats are expected to have a wide-open race for their party’s presidential nomination, while Republicans are expected to renominate President Donald Trump.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Fitzgerald acknowledged that moving the presidential primary — which would decouple the Supreme Court election from the presidential primary — could give a “better chance” to Kelly in the election.
It’s always great to hear honesty,” Evers said of Fitzgerald’s comments. “Clearly that’s what everybody assumed. I know Sen. Fitzgerald well, and if he said that, I believe that’s an accurate statement.”
“We’ll be taking this budget out to the people of the state of Wisconsin, and in Republican areas, we’ll be talking about this.” Gov.-elect Tony Evers