GOP plans to kill Medicaid expansion, pot legalization

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republicans plan to kill some of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' signature proposals in the first vote of the budget-writing committee next week, including Medicaid expansion, legalizing medical marijuana and capping enrollment in private voucher schools.

The committee's co-chairs, Rep. John Nygren and Sen. Alberta Darling said in a memo Wednesday they will fundamentally reshape the $83 billion budget by removing more than 70 policy items Evers proposed with one vote on May 9. Republicans will then work to build the budget from the ground up, starting with spending as it is currently set under the spending plan passed under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Evers' spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff had no immediate comment.

Darling and Nygren said in a joint statement they anticipated Evers would pursue many of the ideas in separate legislation. But those are nearly certain to fail in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

"The bottom line is his budget is unsustainable, irresponsible and jeopardizes the progress we've made in the last eight years," Darling and Nygren said in a statement explaining their plans.

The move is not a surprise. Republican leaders have been consistently opposed to nearly all of the Evers proposals the committee plans to remove next week.

Items to be removed include the core of Evers' budget, accepting federal dollars allowed under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 82,000 poor people. That would also free up an additional $1.6 billion to spend on other health care priorities.

Rep. Chris Taylor, a Democrat on the budget committee, said refusing to accept the federal dollars will blow a massive hole in the budget because the spending plan is built on receiving that money.

"It's the centerpiece of the budget," Taylor said.

Republicans also plan to strip out proposals to legalize marijuana for medical use, legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana and repeal the state's minimum mark-up on gasoline, which Evers counted on to mitigate a proposed gas-tax increase.

Republicans also want to erase provisions that would make driver's licenses available to immigrants here illegally, grant in-state tuition rates to immigrants here illegally and set up automatic voter registration.

Also out is a proposed cap on voucher school enrollment starting in 2021, a plan to move 17-year-old defendants from adult court to juvenile court, where the focus is on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and a proposal to borrow up to $40 million to help cover the cost of replacing lead pipes. Republicans have said they're concerned most of the money would be spent to replace lead pipes in Milwaukee, leaving out smaller municipalities.

Other items destined for the chopping block include:

—Limiting a tax credit for manufacturers, a move that would save the state an estimated $516.6 million but that Republicans decried as a tax increase on job creators.

—Increase the minimum wage.

—Repeal a right-to-work law passed under Walker.

—Ending a tax deduction for private school tuition.

—Closing the so-called "dark stores loophole" that allows big box retailers to save millions in property taxes by assessing the value of their active stores as if they were vacant.

—Restoring powers Republicans stripped from Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul in a lame-duck session in December. The GOP prohibited Evers from withdrawing the state from lawsuits and forced Kaul to get legislative approval before settling lawsuits and require him to deposit settlement awards in the general fund rather than in state Department of Justice accounts. The session has sparked several legal challenges, two of which are before the state Supreme Court.

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