Afternoon State News Briefs: LFB says state would save $66 million in Medicade expansionWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin would save about $66-million in state tax dollars over a three-year period if the state agrees to expand Medicaid under the Obama health reform law. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reviewed the state’s fiscal ramifications of expanding tax-funded health programs like Badger-Care-Plus. And Democrats used that report today in urging Republican Governor Scott Walker to propose that the state expand Medicaid as part of his next two-year state budget.
MADISON - Wisconsin would save about $66-million in state tax dollars over a three-year period if the state agrees to expand Medicaid under the Obama health reform law. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reviewed the state’s fiscal ramifications of expanding tax-funded health programs like Badger-Care-Plus. And Democrats used that report today in urging Republican Governor Scott Walker to propose that the state expand Medicaid as part of his next two-year state budget.
Walker’s office did not comment on the new figures. The governor planned to stay silent on the matter until he unveils his budget package to the Legislature in 15 days. Milwaukee state Assembly Democrat Jon Richards told a news conference quote, “It’s about knowing a good deal when you see one – and this is a good deal.” The Democrats asked for the Fiscal Bureau analysis after the state’s health secretary told Congress it most cost Wisconsin more – and not less – to expand its Medicaid programs, even with the added federal money that’s part of the package. The Fiscal Bureau said the state could cover an extra 175,000 needy people and still save the 66-million through 2016 – and in the following four years, Washington would pay state health providers four-and-a-half billion dollars for Medicaid patients – while the state would only have to shell out another $67-million.
A reform plan offered earlier today would cut the 18-member Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to 13 members and reduce its budget by 40 percent. Two supervisors endorsed the approach, saying it would accomplish more to change county government and work better than a plan being consider in the Legislature. Supervisor Steve F. Taylor says downsizing the board makes more sense than cutting the pay for members. The plan being considered at the Capitol would reduce pay for supervisors from $51,000 per year to $15,000 and cut the board’s operating budget by 85 percent.
A metal-making company with a plant in Wisconsin has been fined $275,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Grede Wisconsin Subsidiaries LLC is accused of exposing its workers to hazardous dust at an iron foundry operation in Browntown, in southern Wisconsin. OSHA says the Michigan-based company is a repeat violator, with citations issued in 2009 and 2010. About 200 people work at the Wisconsin location where metal castings are made.
A judge in southwest Wisconsin says he wants to see a state lawmaker’s e-mails, before deciding whether un-edited copies of certain messages should be made public. Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton was one of the loudest opponents two years ago against the law which virtually ended most public union bargaining. The conservative MacIver Institute wanted to find out if public workers were engaging in illegal political activity by sending Erpenbach e-mails during their work hours. Erpenbach provided the e-mails to the Institute – but with all the senders’ names blacked out. The Institute then filed suit in Grant County. And yesterday, Circuit Judge Robert VanDeHey said he wanted to see the unedited e-mails for himself, and then decide whether the MacIver Institute should get them. Among other things, Erpenbach contended that potential public harassment of the workers who sent him the e-mails outweighed the public’s right to know the government’s business under the Open Records Law. Erpenbach also argued that the courts had no business second-guessing his black-out decisions, under the separation-of-powers doctrine. The senator also questioned whether the e-mails are official records. The Wisconsin Institute of Law-and-Liberty, which brought the lawsuit for the MacIver institute, said Judge VanDeHey ruled that the e-mails are indeed public records, and that the law applies to legislators like Erpenbach.
A Milwaukee police officer accused of illegally strip-searching criminal suspects will be tried separately from three similar defendants charged to a much smaller extent. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner agreed this morning to have officer Michael Vagnini’s case considered separately from those of Jacob Knight, Brian Kozolek, and Jeffrey Dollhopf. Vagnini is charged with 25 counts of illegal strip searches, sexual assault, and misconduct in public office. The other officers are charged with a combined eight counts of strip searches and misconduct. Prosecutors said the three were merely present in most of the instances in which Vagnini checked suspects’ cavities for illegal drugs. Prosecutors said that in one case, two officers held a suspect’s arms while another held a gun to the man’s head – and another officer put on a choke-hold while searching a man’s buttocks for evidence. Vagnini is scheduled to go on trial April 29th, unless there’s a plea deal before then. The other three defendants are now set for trials on June third. Judge Wagner will hear pre-trial requests on February 20th.
Much of southern and far western Wisconsin got another 1-to-2 inches of snow today. That’s no big deal in-and-of itself – but in some places, the new stuff is on top of light snows that have fallen every day for the past week. This was the seventh straight day the La Crosse area received snow – and officials say it has added up to more than 10 inches. West Bend in far southeast Wisconsin has a seven-inch snow cover, after getting another inch-or-so this morning. Most of the Badger State was dry by late this afternoon, but it won’t stay that way for long. Yet another low-pressure system is due in tomorrow – and it’s supposed to bring another 2-to-4 inches of snow to Wisconsin by Thursday afternoon. Parts of the south could also get sleet, as a slow warming trend continues and temperatures rise above freezing. Forecasters expect drier and warmer weather on Friday and Saturday – but around round of precipitation is expected on Sunday.