In a recorded address to a joint session of the Wisconsin State Legislature Tuesday evening (Feb. 16), Governor Tony Evers unveiled his $91 billion 2021-23 biennial state budget proposal. Tuesday’s budget address starts a months-long process on the most important legislation of the session, with the GOP-controlled Joint Committee on Finance receiving the budget as Assembly Bill 68/Senate Bill 111.
The budget as proposed by Governor Evers contains many items supported by the Wisconsin Medical Society (Society), such as supporting telehealth parity, investing in broadband access, expanding postpartum Medicaid eligibility for women from 60 days to 12 months and a much-needed increase in Medicaid reimbursement for emergency physicians. On the less positive side, the budget creates a “medical” marijuana system where physicians would be tasked with verifying that patients have certain health conditions that would allow the patient to purchase marijuana tax-free.
The budget also includes provisions that some GOP legislative leaders have deemed “poison pills,” such as reversing Act 10 collective bargaining limits, expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act (something the Society supports) and legalization of recreational marijuana. Because of those and other provisions, the Finance Committee may choose to start its section-by-section review of the budget from a different starting point: either a subset of the Governor’s proposal or ignoring the proposal altogether and instead building a budget that starts from current agency appropriation levels.
The Finance Committee will likely schedule various public hearings around the state to take public input on the Governor’s proposal. It will then hold multiple executive sessions to amend the bill, agency by agency, before sending the amended bill to the full Senate and Assembly for approval. The Society will continue to analyze the 1,846-page bill and advocate for sound health care policy that supports physicians and their patients.
Earlier this afternoon, Governor Evers signed a bill into law ensuring that businesses will not face state taxes for participating in the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which offered forgivable loans in order to prevent employee layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation, Assembly Bill 2, mirrors action taken by Congress late last year to eliminate any federal tax liability for forgiven PPP loans. The Society was part of a large coalition supporting the state proposal.
Contact Society Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information.
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