State Government and Political Roundup: Gov. Walker to include expand cancer research and treatments in budgetWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker says he’ll include almost four-million-dollars in his proposed state budget to expand cancer research and treatments.
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker says he’ll include almost four-million-dollars in his proposed state budget to expand cancer research and treatments.
The money would help UW-Madison’s Carbone Cancer Center make its diagnostic imaging technology available to private medical centers like the Marshfield Clinic. Walker announced his budget measure at Marshfield’s CT scan department. He said he would create a new “Wisconsin Oncology Network of Imaging Excellence” to spread the technology. The Republican Walker said patients in rural areas will get more access to cancer treatments. Marshfield Clinic now has about 150 clinical treatment trials for oncology patients. And clinic research official Matthias Weiss says the Walker initiative will make more trials available for cancer prevention, screenings, and treatments. The governor said such efforts are vital, because one of every four Wisconsinites dies from cancer in any given year. Walker said his own family has been hit hard. His mother-in-law and brother-in-law both died from cancer, and his father has survived prostate cancer.
Five Wisconsin mail processing centers that are targeted for closure could get a reprieve, under a new bill to address the financial problems of the U.S. Postal Service. Eight senators, including Sen. Al Franken of neighboring Minnesota, introduced a bill yesterday which also seeks to modernize the postal agency. The bill would free up billions of dollars, by repealing a 2006 law that forces the Postal Service to set aside funds for up to 75 years of future health care benefits for the agency’s retirees. It’s the only federal agency which has such a requirement – and postal union officials say it’s why the service is bleeding millions in red ink. Franken says the new bill would preserve Saturday deliveries, as well as spare many of the 200-plus processing centers due to close. At last word, officials said the facilities in Wausau, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Portage, and Kenosha would shut down sometime after April. The bill would also let the Postal Service do new things to raise revenue like notarize documents, and issue hunting-and-fishing licenses. The bill would also let allow alcohol shipments for the first time. And supporters said it could pave the way for the Postal Service to help customers take advantage of e-mail and Internet services – the very things that have caused huge drops in mail volumes.
A state official blamed a former loophole for letting a Middleton foster care business get away with charging taxpayers for six-million dollars in inappropriate expenses. Children-and-Families’ Secretary Eloise Anderson told the Senate Human Services Committee yesterday that Community Care Resources was not required to submit annual expense reports to the state before 2010. But the loophole was closed that year, when a new law allowed state auditors to monitor foster care expenses and set rates. And the issues at Community Care were uncovered in a long review which her department began in 2011. The audit showed that Community Care charged taxpayers for lavish home renovations, cars, and travel – plus million-dollar salaries for owners Dan and Mary Simon over three years. The agency revoked the company’s license in January, and demanded that the money be repaid by next Friday. Lawmakers were also told that the Justice Department has been contacted about the matter. The firm did not attend yesterday’s state hearing. In a letter, attorney David Schwartz said the Simons were innocent – and they’re appealing their license revocation.
Governor Scott Walker says $19 a month is reasonable for a person at the poverty level to pay for health insurance. But advocates for the poor take issue with that. Walker has asked lawmakers to drop low-income people from Medicaid programs like Badger-Care-Plus if they make more than 100-percent of the poverty level – and to place them into the federal insurance exchanges that begin next year under the Obama health reform law. Bobby Peterson of the ABC-for-Health law firm in Madison says the poorest of those booted out of Medicaid will have a hard time paying even the $19-dollar minimum each month – and those types of people will simply go uninsured. Walker figures that his plan would increase the total number of insured residents by 224,000 – mostly with private coverage. The Republican Walker said he’d rather see people get private insurance with a chance to make something of themselves, instead of forever being on the government dole. Democrats said Wisconsin should have taken the full federal expansion of Medicaid, and millions-of-dollars that come with it. But Walker and other Republicans say there’s always a chance the funding will be pulled in the future, and states would ill afford to be left holding the bag.
Governor Scott Walker today accused a number of unemployed people of milking the system in order to keep getting jobless benefits. Walker told fellow conservative Charlie Sykes on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee that employers tell him “all the time” that it’s frustrating that they have jobs open. The governor said that all too often, employers hear quote, “the mumbling of people who really just come in and want to get things signed off, to continue to get their benefits.” And Walker said it’s why he wants to make unemployment recipients apply for at least four jobs a week instead of the current two. The proposal was originally made by a task force that recommended 200 changes to state regulations. Increasing the employer contacts is one thing Walker can do without having to get legislative approval. The task force also said applicants for jobless benefits should provide more documentation in order to cut down on fraud – and reduce the 18 situations in which workers can quit jobs and still get benefits. Walker said he laughed when he heard Democrats and media say the changes would make it harder to get unemployment. Walker said it’s not punishment to make people apply for at least four jobs a week. Walker said when he was looking for work, his parents made him go out five-days-a-week or more if a business was open.
The Republican president of the Wisconsin Senate wants to speed up legal challenges to the laws that he and his colleagues pass. Sen. Mike Ellis of Neenah is asking fellow legislators to co-sponsor a bill that would force the Supreme Court to directly consider all lawsuits filed against state laws – and to decide on them within 150 days. Ellis says his measure would streamline the legal process. It comes after two years of legal battles over the law which virtually banned most public union bargaining. Also, the Republican photo ID requirement for voters is still tied up in a pair of state appeals courts – and it’s been a year since voters were forced to show their ID’s at the polls. Conservatives control all three branches of state government at the moment – but the Supreme Court’s 4-3 conservative majority faces a referendum in the spring elections. Conservative Justice Pat Roggensack is challenged by a self-avowed liberal Vince Megna, and law professor Ed Fallone who’s received lots of support from Democrats. Those three will run for two finalist spots in a primary on Tuesday.