Gov. Evers attempts to sell Medicaid expansion by investing in projects supported by Republicans

NOW: Gov. Evers attempts to sell Medicaid expansion by investing in projects supported by Republicans

MIDDLETON Wis. (CBS 58) -- Governor Tony Evers attempted to sell his plan to expand Medicaid by offering to invest in projects Republicans support, but GOP leaders ultimately rejected it. 

Gov. Evers called for a special session for lawmakers to consider a bill to use a portion of the $1.6 billion in federal aid to expand BadgerCare to provide health insurance to an additional 90,000 Wisconsinites and invest in infrastructure, jobs training, mental health programs and replacing lead pipes.

“If the Republicans decide not to do this, they’ll be turning away projects in their own districts,” Evers said at a press event in Middleton. 

Republicans didn’t buy it and some signaled they wouldn’t convene for a special session Evers scheduled for Tuesday, May 25th.

 “This is a thinly-veiled political maneuver by the Governor,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jim Steineke and Senate President Chris Kapenga in a joint statement. “We intend to gavel out this unserious stunt.”

Other Republicans shot down the idea of expanding BadgerCare despite supporting some of the projects proposed by Evers.

 “There are some projects in there that are certainly with merit, but to hold those projects hostage to expand welfare -- it’s just unconscionable to do that,” said Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva).

Evers had hoped to convince Republicans by committing to spend a portion of the 1.6 billion in federal funds on more than 50 projects, including $100 million towards replacing lead pipes, $100 million for fixing roads and bridges, and $200 to expand broadband.

Some of these Republicans have voiced support for in the past. 

“This has to be about the health care of Wisconsinites and if that isn’t a concern of theirs, then a concern of theirs will be, what project am I voting down,” said Evers. 

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) who’s stood by the governor’s calls to expand Medicaid called Republicans rejection of the funds “fiscally stupid.” 

"Who says no to a billion dollars,” said Erpenbach. “(This) is not only morally wrong, fiscally, it’s really stupid.”

Other proposals in Evers bill include:

-$300,000 for the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum 

-$1.7 million for DHS to award grants to organizations led by Black women

-$5.5 million for rural health care

-$25 million for mental health services

-$2 million to complete construction for Milwaukee's United Community Center's
Ricardo Diaz Early Learning Academy

-$50 million for veteran homes

-$530,000 for a new water supply control system in the city of Waukesha

-$2 million for a visitor center in Green Bay

-$2 million for a Hmong cultural center

-$5 million renovation to Potawatomi State Park in Door County

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