Wisconsin's budget battle on hold, lawmakers feud over Medicaid expansion

MADISON -- The state's budget battle is apparently on hold. A committee hearing to decide how much money lawmakers plan to spend on health care programs was scheduled to get underway at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, but as of 5 p.m. Republicans had not shown up.

Republicans met behind closed doors for hours. In May, they voted to strip Medicaid expansion from the next two-year budget -- which blew a $1.6 billion hole in Governor Tony Evers' plan.

Lawmakers have to decide how much to spend on Medicaid reimbursement rates and other health care programs.

Republicans are opposed to Medicaid expansion. They believe the poor are better off staying on private, subsidized plans sold through the Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. They also have concerns the federal government's reimbursement rates could drop.

Democrats say killing Medicaid expansion is irresponsible.

Under the governor's plan, the state could enroll about 82,000 more people -- to leverage $1.6 billion in additional federal funds to pay for other health care programs.

At a news conference before the hearing was supposed to start, Democrats said they would not stop fighting for expansion because it is what voters want.

"Dozens, and dozens, and dozens of emails from people all over the state. In fact, many of them are in Republican districts, urging us to continue to fight -- and we promised we would, and we are going to keep our promise," said Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison).

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Medicaid would be expanded over his dead body, but some GOP lawmakers said they were open to compromise.