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Democrat says he talked with GOP on Medicaid deal

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: February 26, 2013
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A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Erpenbach had not spoken with him.

"Gov. Scott Walker has stated publicly that his plan would protect Wisconsin from Washington, D.C., and its unpredictable finances which is definitely a concern shared by many in the Legislature," said Fitzgerald's spokesman Tom Evenson.

Republicans hold an 18-15 majority in the Senate. It would take two Republicans to break ranks to stop any Walker proposal.

Republicans have a 60-39 majority in the Assembly. Speaker Robin Vos said no Republicans have expressed to him a desire to accept the Medicaid expansion, and he bluntly assessed the potential deal Erpenbach described: "Not going to happen."

An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau found the full Medicaid expansion would cost the state $67 million through 2020 while Walker's plan would cost $320 million more. Accepting Walker's plan also would mean a rejection of $4.4 billion in federal funding over that time. His approach would fetch the state about $460 million in federal money.

"What is it going to take for us to get people to wake up and pay attention to this issue because it makes no fiscal sense?" said Bobby Peterson, director of ABC for Health, a Madison-based public interest law firm that works to ensure that children and families get health care benefits and services. It organized Tuesday's meeting.

Dennis Smith, secretary of Walker's Department of Health Services, also spoke at the meeting and defended Walker's approach. He reiterated the governor's concern that Medicaid reimbursements to the state could be cut in the future. Smith announced last week he was resigning his post Thursday to take a position with a Washington-based law firm.

Democratic lawmakers who spoke at the meeting said Walker's approach is motivated by partisan politics and his desire to court national conservatives, not what makes the most sense for Wisconsin.

"I'm not certain what the governor's trying to prove by doing this but I think he's trying to prove a political point to people who don't live in this state," Erpenbach said. "This is a purely political decision and nothing more than that."

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Follow Scott Bauer at http://twitter.com/sbauerAP