The GOP Tightrope Walk Is Getting Shaky
Huebsch's offer did not include a hospital tax proposed by Doyle. Democrats had hoped Republicans would go along with it after the Wisconsin Hospital Association dropped its opposition last week.
"The hospital tax is just not on the table," Huebsch said. "It's one where we just don't agree with the policy."
The new tax would generate additional federal aid that would fund increased Medicaid reimbursement rates to hospitals. They would receive a net increase of $285 million, most of which would go to Milwaukee-area hospitals.
But Huebsch said the proposed hospital tax was "counterintuitive" because it would be passed on to regular people at a time when everyone wants to reduce health care costs.
Huebsch's argument is what's counterintuitive; that is, if you understand how health care costs operate, and I have little doubt Huebsch is privy to the notion of cost-shifting and the hidden health care tax stemming, in part, from poor Medicaid reimbursement levels. And I'm sure he understands that Medicaid works on a matching system with the federal government, so the more the state puts in the more the federal government puts in.Connecting these dots to see how the hospital assessment will increase overall funding for Medicaid and, as a result, help reduce the hidden health care tax for people with private insurance isn't a complicated or convoluted venture, and it's certainly not counterintuitive.
So what's the deal?
I'd say it's pretty clear something is getting to Huebsch, who took a lot of flak after reports surfaced that he included the $1.25 cigarette tax in an offer a couple of weeks back.
And with the rally organized by Americans for Prosperity just a week away, I don't see Huebsch making any other meaningful proposals toward a compromise budget in the near future; unless, that is, he wants his name to be the one that's screamed alongside Doyle's on the steps of the Capitol.
That's what makes Doyle's call for a special session on Monday, two days before the rally, such a shrewd political move. It clearly pits the two forces in Huebsch's political life -- the general public and the fiscal conservatives with the microphones (figuratively and, next Wednesday, literally) -- against each other.
The call for a special session has already made a media splash, and it will continue to do so through next week, which will raise the public awareness of the budget even more. This forces Huebsch's hand rather than allowing him to bide time in fruitless closed-door negotiations until after the AFP rally.
As the Recess Supervisor points out, the special session effectively neutralizes any momentum the GOP had after passing its piecemeal bills on K-12 funding and shared revenue last month, and it places the spotlight back on the GOP as the side that's holding up a budget compromise.
Assuming, that is, Huebsch doesn't relent and bring the governor's new budget proposal to the Assembly floor on Monday. Although he's indicated he'd abide by the call for a special session, actually bringing the bill to the floor for a vote would risk watching the 47 Dems grab the few Republican votes needed to actually pass it.
And, if that happens, Huebsch better not find himself anywhere near the Capitol building on Wednesday.
Labels: state budget