Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The GOP Tightrope Walk Is Getting Shaky

I just don't understand this position:

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.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are missing quite a few dynamics. Doyle is introducing a compromise of his own making. It will pass in the senate and fail in the Assembly.

This was a very foolish move for team Doyle. This will end up reducing his clout dramatically and he must now accept blame for the stalemate.

October 10, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

How do you figure? The Doyle compromise bill is going to include $430 million in spending reductions from his initial proposal, and that's why it's going to be framed in the media -- and rightfully so -- as a compromise budget.

If Huebsch brings it up for a vote in the Assembly, all it would take for it to pass is 3-5 GOP votes since the Dems have 47 of the 99 seats; that's quite a gamble for Huebsch considering the number of Repubs who hold seats in swing districts that the Dems are already targeting next year.

But if Huebsch refuses to bring it up for a vote, the media will print and broadcast exactly that -- Huebsch refused to allow the Assembly to even consider the compromise budget.

I just don't see how that's "a very foolish move for team Doyle."

October 10, 2007  
Anonymous dekerivers said...

I think the main part missing from the last few weeks has been the outrage from the public. Therefore I think Doyle did indeed make a great power play by forcing this to a special session. The public will be confronted with this news story and will see who the ones are blocking the works. The GOP. I think the Assembly will play hard ball BUT will only be able to go so far with that tactic. The public hates this type of showmanship (recall Newt) and the newspaper editorials will reflect that statewide next week.

When this is over the GOP will wonder who in hell among them created the game plan that led to public shame. And who encourged the group of conservatives.

Owen Robinson fron Boots and Sabers will have to share much of the internet blame.

October 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Compromise??? You must be kidding. Doyle's original budget had four major tax increases: Cigs, Hospital tax, gas tax and real estate transfer. The only one not still alive is the real estate. Doyle's Budget part II will still tax and spend more than $1.1 billion.

The bill will pass the senate with all dem votes. When it gets to the assembly it will fail with all 52 assembly reps and at least two dems, zig and wasserman voting against it. Also look for Sherman and others to bolt over a three-tier wine portion of the budget that hurts local wineries.

You are misreading the tea leaves - huebsch is the only one who comes out of this with more power.

October 10, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The new bill by Doyle cuts $470 million in spending -- that's significant. And just listing four taxes and calling it a day isn't exactly giving the full picture. I'm really not sure what makes some conservatives think that just by saying "taxes" people will scream. Not all taxes are the same, and raising the cigarette tax isn't exactly an unpopular position, particularly considering the funds are largely going to pay for tobacco-related illnesses. As for the hospital assessment, it will help reduce health care costs by bringing in more federal dollars; even the WHA doesn't oppose it anymore. I do think Doyle overreaches with the oil assessment, but that's not going to be in the compromise budget (though something needs to be done to get money into the transportation fund now that the automatic gas tax increase was eliminated last year).

And we'll see if Huebsch brings it to the floor next week. But I'm highly doubting he's as confident as you that he has the votes he needs to defeat it; otherwise he wouldn't be hesitating now on whether to bring it to the floor.

But even if it does get defeated on the Assembly floor, I'm not exactly sure how that hurts Doyle. It would show that Huebsch has control over his own caucus, which is important to the base, but I'm not sure the general public really cares about that or how that would reflect negatively on Doyle.

October 10, 2007  

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