Tag Archives: Walker

Wisconsin has the power to make healthcare cheaper and better

The much-maligned Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010 will stay in place.

“Obamacare is the law of the land,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told the nation. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

Self-employed older Americans and state budget directors breathed a sigh of relief. The Republican healthcare plan would have raised rates for older people on Healthcare.gov, shifted taxes away from the well-off, and shifted to states more costs for low-income, disabled and elderly (through Medicaid).

But the problems of the ACA — rising premiums, customers left with little choice and insurance companies leaving the marketplace in some states — still remain.

Why do these problems exist? Is there anything Wisconsin can do to improve things?

Insurance companies act to share risk. Inevitably, healthier patients subsidize the less fortunate sicker patients. This has been the case since Benjamin Franklin invented the first American insurance company (that I’m aware of) when he created a “mutual fire aid society” to help defray the risk of fire.

Insurance companies are betting you will stay healthy, you are betting you’ll get sick.

When companies entered the healthcare.gov market place, they kept premiums low. Conservative columnist David Brook wrote in 2015 “Healthcare inflation has been at historic lows.” Quoting expert Jason Furman, Brooks wrote prices were growing as an annual rate of 1.6 percent since 2010, “the slowest rate for such a period in five decades.” Federal government health expenses slowed too.

For a number of reasons, the low inflation was not sustainable. Young people were not buying their own policies but staying on their parents plan as long as possible. Many people who got insurance for the first time had numerous costs due to delayed care. Insurance companies didn’t make the money they expected, and decided to either drop providing coverage in the exchange or raise premiums to cover the higher costs.

Covering self-employed or small businesses (known in the insurance industry as “individual coverage”) has always been expensive. Administrative costs are high; risk is high. The ACA protected consumers in many ways, such as not being charged more if you had cancer but are now healthy. However, the rules left fewer ways for insurance companies to recoup costs. So, they raised premiums or completely left the individual market.

The result is higher cost insurance, less choice and in some cases no choice.

Wisconsin historically has a competitive insurance market with many competing plans, especially in the southeast. Many players should give us lower costs (however, the health care market does not follow normal economic patterns), but seeking an unprofitable venture does not make a good business model.

Which may lead us to one option. Some insurance companies are not-for-profit; some have very low overhead. Everything else being equal, these companies should be better at competing. However, so much depends on the luck — or lack of it — in taking care of a high cost patient.

We could return to a successful plan that helped health insurance companies manage risk. In 2013, Gov. Walker eliminated the state’s “Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan” known as HIRSP. This was a mistake.

The HIRSP plan was paid for with funds from insurance companies. We could create a similar plan to allow people with conditions that require expensive care to continue under their own insurance plan. Their insurance company could use a plan like HIRSP to share risk with other companies. Basically HIRSP 2.0 could work seamlessly in the background to help manage high-risk patients.

A recent National Governor’s Association briefing suggested states could save up to 15 percent on insurance premiums if they created such a plan. Other state innovations could include promoting enrollment in the healthcare marketplace, and focusing on methods to reduce the cost of care.

In a 2015 report, Citizen Action of Wisconsin proposed several changes that could bring down health insurance premiums. Medicaid expansion could cover an estimated 81,000 Wisconsinites through existing federal law and bring many high cost patients into a less expensive system. Creation of a Wisconsin-based marketplace, state scrutiny over premium hikes, use of state purchasing power to gain value — lower costs and better care — are all options that merit investigation.

Healthcare policy is complex. But solving problems is possible. If those in Washington have given up, let’s consider new ideas at our state Capitol. We might land on an idea that really works.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Eau Claire, represents Wisconsin’s 31st Senate District.

 

Scott Walker’s approval rises 3 percent

Gov. Scott Walker’s approval rating is at 45 percent as he prepares for a likely run for a third term.

The Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed that 45 percent of respondents approve of the job Walker is doing while 48 percent disapprove. That’s up 3 percent from the 42 percent rating he had last October.

The poll also found more respondents had an unfavorable view of Walker (51 percent) than Donald Trump (48 percent), though Walker’s favorable rating (45 percent) was also higher than Trump’s (42 percent).

Walker’s approval level has been up and down in the Marquette poll over the past few years, bottoming out at 37 percent in September 2015 shortly after he ended his presidential campaign.

But his rating is below the 50 percent approval he had at this point before he ran for a second term in 2014.

The poll finds that 39 percent approve of the job performance of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson while 40 percent approve of Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s approval rating sits at 45 percent.

The poll surveyed 800 registered voters between March 13 and March 16 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

 

 

Stop diverting taxpayer funds intended for veterans nursing homes

We have been entrusted by the federal government to care for elderly and disabled veterans and their spouses at our veteran nursing homes. Caring for our veterans is one of the most sacred duties we work to achieve as a state.

These facilities should offer gold-standard care. Unfortunately, like many other operations of the state, infrastructure, along with maintenance delays and failures, have not lived up to that standard, most notably at the Veterans Home at King.

This is NOT a money problem. Even when state finances were tight just after the recession, the veterans nursing homes were building surplus funds. While the federal government has decided not to limit how states can spend surplus revenues, we can still make the right choices here in Wisconsin and invest in our veteran care with money that was paid to care for veterans.

The first step in that process is taking back control of transfers out of the veteran nursing home surplus fund. Currently about $35 million are in the fund. This money can be transferred out of the fund at any time not by the Legislature, but by a political appointee, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The only way the Legislature even knows about the transfers is because of a statutory required annual report to the Legislature on the Veterans Fund.

Why does the veteran’s nursing home fund have a surplus? These revenues are derived from an exemption of the nursing home bed tax, the federal per diem paid to facilities for the care of veterans, federal service-related disability payments made for the care of disabled veterans, the higher state rate for reimbursement for Medicaid, and private payment from veterans and their families.

The 2013 budget included language that allowed for unlimited transfers from the veterans nursing home fund into the Veterans Fund without Legislative approval. The Legislature added JFC passive review, but the governor vetoed it. DVA can now transfer, at any time, surplus from our state veterans nursing homes facilities.

Unfortunately, turning back the clock and granting facility upgrade requests is not an option. Gov. Walker zeroed out $18.5 million in facility improvements in the last state budget.

Our only choice as a Legislature is to move forward. That is why I am proposing a bill to reestablish legislative oversight of all funding for the veterans homes.

The DVA will transfer a total of $21 million away from the veterans nursing homes during just this biennium. Passing the buck on financial oversight is wrong. A state that supports its veterans spends state money for programs for veterans and does not use money meant for the care and comfort in nursing homes for agency administration and rent.

Funds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first. For more information on the Veterans

Sen. Jon Erpenbach represents the 27th Assembly District.

Walker’s failed presidential campaign still owes $807,000

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker still owes more than $807,000 in campaign debt from his failed presidential bid that ended nine months ago.

His latest campaign report filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission shows Walker owes $807,675. That’s down about $91,000 from the previous month. His debt stood at $1.2 million at the end of 2015.

Walker ended his 71-day campaign for president in September, after average spending of $90,000 a day on his losing effort. He’s been slowly paying off his campaign debts since.

Walker’s latest filing shows he raised about $127,000 in May.

Walker has tried a number of tactics to eliminate his leftover debts.

In May, he rented out his donor list and email list to other candidates. The previous month, he offered to sell T-shirts from his failed campaign in exchange for $45 donations. Because Walker could not take requests for the size and color of the T-shirts he was selling, he suggested that buyers frame them or use them for craft projects.

It’s widely believed that Walker was forced to withdraw from the race because he ran out of money. Critics, including Republicans, chastised Walker for his fiscal imprudence, but apologists blamed it on his advisers, particularly his campaign manager, Rick Wiley.

But Donald Trump hired Walker’s former campaign manager Rick Wiley to serve as his political director, suggesting that Trump’s people did not think Wiley was to blame.

Walker has endorsed Trump for president.

Poll: Clinton, Feingold lead in Wisconsin, Walker’s approval down

A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Hillary Clinton with 42 percent and Donald Trump with 35 percent support among Wisconsin registered voters in a presidential race matchup. Seventeen percent say they will vote for neither candidate.

Approval of how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is handling has fallen to 39 percent, with disapproval at 57 percent. In March, approval was 43 percent and disapproval was 53 percent.

In the previous Marquette Law School Poll, in March, Clinton had 47 percent support and Trump 37 percent.

Among likely voters — those who say they are certain they’ll vote in November — Clinton receives 46 percent to Trump’s 37 percent in the new poll, with 13 percent saying they will support neither candidate.

In Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race, among registered voters, Democratic candidate Russ Feingold leads incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson by 45 to 41 percent. In March, Feingold had 47 percent and Johnson 42 percent.

Among likely voters, Feingold does even better. He’s supported by 51 percent while Johnson is backed by 42 percent. Two percent say they will support neither and 5 percent say they don’t know whom they will support.

Feingold is viewed favorably by 40 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 33 percent. Another 26 percent say they haven’t heard enough or don’t know how they feel about him. In March, Feingold’s ratings were 41 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable and 25 percent not able to rate him.

Johnson is seen favorably by 33 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 31 percent, with 35 percent saying they have not heard enough or don’t know how they feel. In March, Johnson’s ratings were 32 percent favorable and 31 percent unfavorable, with another 36 percent unable to rate him.

TheMarquette Law School Poll also shows Wisconsin Democrats are more fired up than Republicans about the November elections. Seventy-eight percent of Republicans say they are certain they will vote in November, a drop of 9 percentage points from the 87 percent who said so in March. But, the intention to vote among Democrats has increased from 81 percent in March to 84 percent in June.

By contrast, in June 2012, 90 percent of Republicans said they were certain to vote in November, while only 80 percent of Democrats said they were likely to vote. Democrats prevailed in the state in November.

Partisanship
Each party faces divisions left over from the primary season. Among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, supporters of Sanders remain reluctant to vote for Clinton in November. Sixty-seven percent of Sanders supporters say they will vote for Clinton, 4 percent say they will vote for Trump, while 24 percent say they will vote for neither and 5 percent say they don’t know. By comparison, 88 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for Sanders over Trump, who gets 5 percent of such supporters, with 7 percent saying they would support neither and 1 percent saying they don’t know.

Among Republicans and independent leaners, 12 percent say their party is currently united, 41 percent say it is divided now but will unite by November and 45 percent say the party will still be divided in November. Among Democrats and independent leaners, 18 percent say the party is united now, 53 percent say it is divided now but will unite by November and 26 percent believe the party will remain divided. Among Republicans who think their party will remain divided, Trump gets 63 percent of the vote. Among Democrats who think their party will still be divided in November, Clinton gets 58 percent support.

Asked about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s endorsement of Trump, 38 percent of all respondents say it was the right decision while 54 percent say it was a mistake. Among Republicans and independent leaners, however, 69 percent say the endorsement was the right decision and 23 percent say it was a mistake.

Images of presidential candidates
Trump and Clinton are both viewed negatively by a majority of voters. Among registered voters, 64 percent have an unfavorable view of Trump while 26 percent have a favorable view. Clinton is seen unfavorably by 58 percent and favorably by 37 percent. Within their parties, both candidates are seen more positively, with 52 percent of Republicans holding a favorable view of Trump and 35 percent unfavorable. Among Democrats, 67 percent have a favorable view of Clinton while 27 percent view her unfavorably.

Voters were asked how comfortable they would be with the idea of each candidate as president. For Clinton, 38 percent say they would be very or somewhat comfortable while 61 percent said very or somewhat uncomfortable, including 42 percent saying very uncomfortable. For Trump 28 percent say very or somewhat comfortable with 72 percent saying very or somewhat uncomfortable, including 55 percent saying very uncomfortable.

Favorability
Respondents were asked whether each of four traits described Clinton and Trump. Clinton is described as “someone who is honest” by 28 percent while Trump is seen as honest by 32 percent.

Forty-two percent say Clinton is someone who “cares about people like me” while 27 percent say this describes Trump.

Forty-eight percent say Clinton is someone who “could handle a national crisis well” while 31 percent say this is true of Trump.

Asked if each candidate “has the qualifications to be president,” 56 percent say this is true of Clinton while 30 percent say it is true of Trump.

Respondents were asked if the FBI investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State was something that bothers them about Clinton. Sixty-one percent say this bothers them while 38 percent say it does not.

Sixty-three percent say they are bothered by pending lawsuits against Trump for his Trump University real estate seminars while 34 percent say this does not bother them.

Thirty-five percent of respondents say they are bothered by both of these matters while 10 percent are bothered by neither. Twenty-seven percent are bothered by the Trump University issue but not by the Clinton email issue, while 24 percent are bothered by the emails but not by Trump University.

Views on issues
The Marquette Law School Poll found that voters are sharply divided on several issues surveyed in this month’s poll.

Sixty percent of registered voters favor an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., while 18 percent prefer a permanent guest worker status and 17 percent say these immigrants should be required to leave the country. Among Republicans, 44 percent favor a path to citizenship, 24 percent prefer a guest status and 26 percent would require undocumented immigrants to leave. Among Democrats, 75 percent favor eventual citizenship, 14 percent prefer a guest worker option and 8 percent would favor removal from the country.

Fifty-four percent of respondents favor an increase in the minimum wage while 42 percent think it should not be raised. Among Republicans, 24 percent support a hike in the minimum wage while 73 percent oppose an increase, while 79 percent of Democrats support and 17 percent oppose an increase.

Support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally stands at 64 percent while 28 percent are opposed. Among Republicans, 43 percent favor marriage equality, while 48 percent oppose it. Among Democrats, 84 percent are in favor while 11 percent are opposed.

Sixty-three percent of registered voters say they would favor increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations in order to reduce income inequality, while 33 percent are opposed to this. Among Republicans, 33 percent favor such a tax increase to reduce inequality while 63 percent oppose it. Fully 90 percent of Democrats favor reducing inequality by increasing taxes on the wealthy, while just 8 percent are opposed.

However, when asked a slightly different question, opinion shifts substantially. Asked if “it is the responsibility of the government to reduce the differences in income,” 40 percent say they agree while 55 percent disagree. Eighteen percent of Republicans say this is government’s responsibility while 81 percent say it is not. Among Democrats, 60 percent say this is government’s role, while 33 percent say it is not.

The subject of free trade is one issue where partisan views appear to be shifting from traditional party positions. Forty-one percent say free trade agreements have in general been a good thing for the United States, while 44 percent say they’ve been a bad thing. Republicans now take a more negative view of free trade than do Democrats. Thirty-six percent of Republicans say trade agreements have been a good thing while 52 percent say they have been bad for the U.S. Among Democrats, 46 percent say trade agreements have been good for the U.S. while 37 percent say they have been bad.

More voters see trade agreements as costing the United States jobs. Fifty-three percent say trade agreements have cost the U.S. jobs, while 22 percent say they make no difference and 11 percent say trade leads to more job creation. Among Republicans, 58 percent say trade costs jobs, 20 percent say it has no effect and 13 percent say trade creates jobs. Of Democrats, 49 percent say trade costs jobs, 24 percent see no impact and 10 percent say trade increases jobs.

State of the state
Forty-six percent of registered voters say Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, while 50 percent say it has gotten off on the wrong track. When last asked in February, 44 percent said the state was moving in the right direction and 52 percent that it was on the wrong track. Fifty percent or more have said wrong track in each of four polls asking this question since January 2015.

Thirty-seven percent say the state budget is in worse shape than a few years ago, 31 percent say it is in better shape and 25 percent say it is about the same. Combining five polls taken in 2015 and 2016, 38 percent say the budget is in worse shape, 32 percent say better shape and 24 percent about the same.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents think the economy got worse over the past year while 25 percent say it got better and 44 percent say it has remained about the same. This is little changed from March, when 28 percent said the economy had worsened, 25 percent saw improvement and 45 percent saw no change.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, 25 percent expect the economy to improve, 23 percent think it will worsen and 43 percent expect no change. In March, 29 percent expected improvement, 18 percent thought the economy would worsen and 44 percent thought it would not change much.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is viewed favorably by 37 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 33 percent, while 31 percent say they haven’t heard enough or don’t have an opinion. When last measured in August of 2015, Baldwin had a 36 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable rating, with 24 percent unable to give an opinion.

Speaker Ryan is viewed favorably by 49 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 32 percent. Eighteen percent do not have an opinion of him. In March, 48 percent had a favorable opinion, 31 percent unfavorable and 21 percent were unable to say.

President Obama’s job approval stands at 51 percent, with 43 percent disapproval. In March, 50 percent approved and 45 percent disapproved. As in national polling, Obama’s job approval has moved slightly upward since 2014.

The Marquette Law School Poll was conducted June 9-12, 2016. The full sample includes 800 registered voters interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. Results for likely voters are based on 666 respondents with a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.

 

Judge won’t stay ruling against Wisconsin ‘right to work’ law

A Dane County judge refused on April 26 to stay his ruling striking down Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, reiterating his position that the legislation wrongly enables non-union workers to receive free representation.

Judge William Foust said he doesn’t believe state attorneys have shown they’ll overturn his decision on appeal and have no evidence the state would suffer if his ruling stands. He said the core of his ruling is whether a union has to provide free services.

“The decision boils down to something as simple as ‘there is no free lunch,’” the judge said.

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is defending the law, immediately said he’ll seek a stay from a state appeals court “where we feel confident this law will be upheld.”

Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Since unions must represent all employees in a workplace, the laws essentially allow non-union workers to benefit from union representation for free. Twenty-five states have such laws

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed Wisconsin’s version last year.

Three unions – the AFL-CIO’s Wisconsin chapter, Machinists Local Lodge 1061 and United Steelworkers District 2 – filed a lawsuit challenging the law in March 2015, arguing the statutes amount to an illegal taking of their services without compensation.

Foust found the law unconstitutional earlier this month. The state Justice Department asked Foust last week to stay the ruling. They filed notice of appeal the same day with the Wausau-based 3rd District Court of Appeals.

Assistant Attorney General Steven Kilpatrick argued at a hearing Monday that the judge should grant the stay because the state likely will win the appeal, all statutes are presumed constitutional and the state suffers harm any time it can’t enforce a law and unions aren’t likely to suffer substantial harm if the law remains in place pending the appeal.

Fred Perillo, the unions’ attorney, countered that a stay would harm the unions. He said keeping the law in place would cost the unions thousands of dollars in potential dues, prevent them from negotiating contracts requiring due payments and prohibit contract clauses reinstating union dues if right-to-work was struck down from taking effect.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO issued a statement praising Foust for again affirming that the right-to-work law is unconstitutional.

Walker reduces campaign debt below $1 million

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has cut the campaign debt from his failed presidential bid to just under $1 million.

His latest campaign filing shows Walker owes just over $952,000. That is down about $141,000 from the previous month. His debt stood at $1.2 million at the end of 2015.

Walker ended his 71-day campaign for president in September, after spending $90,000 a day on the effort. He’s been slowly paying off his campaign debts since.

It’s widely believed that Walker was forced to withdraw from the race because he ran out of money. Critics, including Republicans, chastised Walker for his fiscal imprudence, but apologists blamed it on his advisers, particularly his campaign manager, Rick Wiley.

But Donald Trump hired Walker’s former campaign manager Rick Wiley to serve as his political director, suggesting that Trump’s people did not think Wiley was to blame.

Walker’s latest Federal Election Commission filing shows he raised about $128,000 in the last month, during which he ran a debt-retirement campaign that included giving away T-shirts in exchange for $45 donations.

Walker’s T-shirt offering said he unable to honor size and color requests because of a lack of resources. Walker suggested that the shirts could be framed or used for “crafty things,” such as pillows or bags, instead of being used as clothing.

The T-short offering was made in an email to donors saying, “If there is one thing the American people learned about me during our presidential campaign, it is that I am thrifty.” He cited his habit of using coupons and shopping at sales racks — a practice that he emphasized repeatedly during his campaign.

On the stump, he told a story about power shopping at Kohl’s so many times that it was ridiculed by Jimmy Fallon on ‘The Tonight Show.’

Scott Walker offers $45 T-shirts to pay off campaign debt

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is giving away T-shirts in exchange for $45 donations to help pay off the $1.2 million debt left over from his short-lived presidential campaign.

The Republican sent an email to donors Sunday saying, “If there is one thing the American people learned about me during our presidential campaign, it is that I am thrifty.” He cited his habit of using coupons and shopping at sales racks — a practice that he emphasized repeatedly during his campaign.

Walker told one story about the purchase of a sweater at Kohl’s so many times that it was ridiculed by Jimmy Fallon on ‘The Tonight Show.’

But Walker’s campaign failed because of his extravagant spending. He spent more than $90,000 a day during his 70-day presidential run. He was forced to withdraw from the race because he ran out of money.

Critics, including Republicans, chastised Walker for his fiscal imprudence, although apologists blamed it on his advisers.

Walker’s email offering said anyone who donates the $45 will receive a campaign T-shirt, but he’s unable to honor size and color requests because of a lack of resources.

Still, Walker suggested that the shirts could be framed or used for “crafty things,” such as pillows or bags, instead of being used as clothing.

In other Walker news, Donald Trump told USA Today that he would consider the governor as a possible running mate.

“I like Walker actually in a lot of ways,” Trump told the newspaper. “I hit him very hard. … But I’ve always liked him. There are people I like, but I don’t think they like me because I have hit them hard.”

During a rally in Janesville just two weeks ago, Trump blasted Walker’s poor handling of Wisconsin’s economy, which lags the rest of the region.

Walker said he was “shocked” by the article, but he declined to rule out the possibility of running as Trump’s vice president.

When Walker withdrew from the GOP presidential race last September, he urged other GOP candidates to follow suit in order to give the party a chance to coalesce around a suitable candidate other than Trump.

Walker endorsed Ted Cruz shortly before the Wisconsin presidential primary election. Cruz won that race.

AP writer Scott Bauer contributed to this article.

 

Caterpillar eliminating 200 jobs in northern Wisconsin

Caterpillar’s restructuring plans include eliminating more than 200 jobs in northern Wisconsin.

The heavy equipment manufacturer will shut down its forest products plant in the Price County village of Prentice, as well as four other plants in the U.S. and China.

Caterpillar says it will move the work done by 220 employees in Prentice facilities in Georgia and Texas by the end of the year. The company also says it’s negotiating with a possible buyer for the Prentice plant, but provided no other details.

Overall Caterpillar plans to reduce its workforce by 670 employees. U.S. facilities in Illinois, Georgia and New Mexico are also affected.

Scott Walker wants Obama to cancel visit by China’s president

Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker wants President Barack Obama to cancel an official state visit next month by the president of China.

The Wisconsin governor said in a statement on Aug. 24 that the planned visit of Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) should be canceled in light of the U.S. stock market’s tumble, which Walker maintains was driven by China’s manipulation of their economy.

Walker says Obama should hold China accountable for what he calls its “increasing attempts to undermine U.S. interests.”

The tough words come as Walker is trying to show more spark to energize his campaign, which polls show is suffering in Wisconsin and key primary states.

A new Marquette Law School Poll found Scott Walker losing by 10 points in the state against Hillary Clinton in a presidential matchup.

The poll also found that Walker is still the leading contender in Wisconsin in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but with far less backing than he had among members of his party in April.