If you’re like me, there are certain phrases that bring back strong memories from your childhood. I remember thinking my dad was so wrong when he said, as he often did, that “if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” I took my health for granted and pined for so many things that I didn’t have. Funny how the older you get, the wiser your parents seem. And now that I’m in my 60s, I realize just how much truth there is in that old saying. If you are healthy, you are truly blessed.
That was one of the reasons that I was so excited by the framework upon which Gov. Tony Evers built his 2019-21 biennial budget. Providing access to quality, affordable health care to thousands of currently un- and under-insured individuals is at the heart of his plan.
And I’ve seen that same excitement as I travelled throughout the district the last several weeks, meeting with local leaders and holding listening sessions from Phillips to Rice Lake, with multiple stops in between. Our friends and neighbors are excited about many of the proposals in the governor’s budget: ensuring our schools are properly funded for our sons and daughters, that our roads are not wearing out into gravel, and perhaps most important, accepting $1.6 billion in federal government funding to expand Medicaid here in Wisconsin.
But that one issue stood out — expanding Medicaid. I heard from so many people about all the good that we can do with those funds, like expanding healthcare access to 82,000 additional citizens, all while saving Wisconsin over 324 million dollars to address additional healthcare needs throughout the state.
Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues can’t let go of their resentment over the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. The Joint Finance Committee voted along partisan lines to remove 131 items from the governor’s budget, many of which the governor campaigned on. Alongside Medicaid expansion, they removed provisions calling for the closing of the dark store loophole, redistricting reform, and increasing county and municipal aid. All these proposals that would benefit the people of Northern Wisconsin were removed from the budget without any meaningful public debate, and more importantly, against the wishes of the majority of the people of the Wisconsin.
If you’re as disappointed as I am by these recent changes, I urge you to let people know. Call the speaker of the state Assembly, or the majority leader of the Senate to voice your opinion. Write a letter to the editor in your local paper, ask your friends and neighbors to let their elected representatives know where they stand.
This budget has a long way to go before it is passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. There is still time to reverse the changes made this week by 11 members of the Joint Finance Committee. Working together, we can move our state forward, and restore the promise of a healthier tomorrow for more of our fellow citizens.
Janet Bewley is a Democrat who represents Wisconsin’s Senate District 25, including Ashland and Bayfield counties.