In The News
Calling Nurse Walker – your outfit is ready
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted May 11, 2010
$25 million in campaign money can buy a lot of costumes. Try them on one after another.
“The jobs governor.” Oops, trash that. It would be followed by jokes about the “worst jobs doll.”
“The tax cut governor.” Better. Especially if you don’t count raising taxes on poor people.
“The no-property-tax increase governor” worked in Milwaukee County! Oh right, most Wisconsinites saw property tax go up.
“The Koch of the walk governor.” Catchy but too cocky.
“The open for purchase governor” – no, better scratch that!
Nothing too flashy, pandering, rich, comic strip gaudy, nothing that hints of Lady Gaga.
But we’ve still got lots of money, so what’s left?
The health governor! That’s good.
Let’s put out an ad that can fudge what we are doing or tried to do. We can blitz the state taking advantage of the inflating costs of health care and the previous administration’s rescue of the state using federal stimulus money. We can hire a number of surprised-looking older citizens and create a 30-second commercial that quickly says “I spent more money funding health care than any governor in Wisconsin history.” PolitiFacts can’t argue with that.
If you squint your eyes, Scott Walker can indeed get away with that statement because of several tricky statistical realities. You know the old saying, figures can lie and liars can figure.
First you can’t count all the money he tried and failed to take away from health care. (That darned affordable health care act and pesky federal regulations again!). And then there were those cowardly Republican legislators who balked at his idea of cutting $20 million from the popular SeniorCare. But you can’t hold against him what he failed to force.
As he campaigned in 2010, Walker ignored warnings to prepare his state budget thinking for the end of the outside federal stimulus – those huge amounts that kept essential state health care programs afloat. He refused to prepare for the departure, to adjust his cuts in education aid or curb his tax breaks for the rich. Meanwhile, all that resistance to affordable health care kept the steady tattoo going of increasing mandated outlays. It’s amazing what the inevitable rise of costs can do. Walker can now technically lay claim to spending more money on health care in a two-year budget than any previous governor.
He can make that claim while also reducing the number of people covered by BadgerCare. That’s possible because of the Obama administration’s concern about protecting states from Medicaid explosions.
The federal health care reform law contains “maintenance of effort” standards, which require states to maintain Medicaid eligibility standards and enrollment procedures – unless Walker could find wiggle room, which is a budget deficit. States can certify they have a deficit to reduce eligibility guidelines for adults to 133% of the poverty level.
Aha! So despite what he was telling voters about how had balanced the state budget, in March his health secretary Dennis Smith declared to the feds an official state deficit of $82 million. That allowed the US to grant a narrow waiver – excluding the children Walker originally intended to chop. Most experts estimate this will throw 17,000 people off BadgerCare.
Those pesky Democrats point out that Walker is having it both ways – telling voters there is no deficit while telling the federal government there is a deficit to reduce BadgerCare costs.
But what did they expect? It’s just a health care costume. This is really the gamesmanship governor.