Burke vs. Walker: It's a horse race

We wanted to share this excellent blog that appeared last week in WisOpinion.com by Bill Kaplan, a former guest columnist with the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009. We believe Kaplan rightly accesses that "Medicaid has become an Achilles' heel for Walker."

Burke vs. Walker: It's a horse race

By Bill Kaplan

A few days ago Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker said the November gubernatorial race "is going to be a tight election". National political prognosticators agree:

• Cook Report - A "toss-up";
• Real Clear Politics - A "toss-up";
• Rothenberg Political Report - Downgraded race from "Republican favored" to "lean Republican";

It's a horse race between Democratic challenger-businesswoman Mary Burke and Gov. Walker.

Burke is running hard to become governor of Wisconsin. She is crisscrossing the state, introducing herself and sharpening her campaign skills. And, Burke has raised a credible campaign war chest. Walker will have more cash, buoyed by out-of-state corporate and far-Right donors. Already there has been a tsunami of Walker attack ads on Burke, befitting a nervous incumbent beset by lackluster lagging job growth, misguided ideological crusades, self-inflicted wounds and the specter of scandals. However, Burke has real strengths and can win:

• Credibility as a businesswoman on the economy and jobs;
• Bipartisan appeal as a pragmatic problem solver;
• A genuine inclusiveness irrespective of class, locality, age, race, sex or sexual orientation;
• Support on bread-and-butter issues such as more state aid to public schools, an increased minimum wage and Medicaid expansion.

Burke said it best at the state Democratic Party convention in June when she cataloged Walker's record: "Is he working for us when he calls raising the minimum wage a political gimmick? No! Is he working for us when he messes with the personal health decisions of women? Is he working for us when he turns way hundreds of millions in Medicaid dollars and ... (many) people lose their health care?" Now Medicaid has become an Achilles' heel for Walker.

Walker's ideological crusade against Medicaid expansion funded by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a self-inflicted human and financial disaster for Wisconsin. His Medicaid "plan" rejected 100 percent federal funding for Medicaid expansion. Instead, Walker threw nearly 63,000 people off Medicaid (somewhat above the official poverty level) while enrolling about 97,500 others (below the poverty level). But here's the rub: the federal match for Walker's "plan" is only about 59 percent. So he blew a needless hole in the Medicaid budget and state taxpayers are stuck with the bill for the $93 million state Medicaid deficit. It gets worse.

The 63,000 thrown off Medicaid were told to apply for private health insurance with a federal tax subsidy under the ACA. But Walker opposes the ACA and offered little help. Now the state has fessed up - only 18,801 got private health insurance. And, many more are likely not to have health coverage. Needless complexity and games at a greater cost in human misery and state money. Enough. Elect Burke!

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