Walker: Don't be a Scrooge

By Bill Kaplan

Like it or not, Gov. Scott Walker was re-elected. However, as gov. he now represents the entire state, notwithstanding a likely presidential run in 2016. And, successfully governing requires compromise, negotiation and respect for the Democratic opposition. One path, already traveled, leads to more confrontation and pitched ideological warfare. For example, jamming a so-called right-to-work law down the throats of working people does not lead to jobs, but to disempowerment of regular folks. Similarly, more tax cuts will not grow the economy, but only increase the state's ballooning deficit. Wisconsin is among 16 states "projected to run shortfalls in the next year or two," according to the Washington Post. 

However, there is a wiser course to take. Since the November midterm elections conservative GOP govs. of Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming, joining 9 other GOP govs. who have expanded Medicaid, cast aside Tea Party ideology and endorsed Medicaid expansion. There are also supportive signals from other GOP-led states, including Alabama and Idaho. This pragmatic approach to governing can be attributed to: 

* Fiscal common sense and state red ink which make immediate 100 percent federal funding (declining later to 90 percent) for Medicaid expansion taxpayer- friendly; 

* Future security for an aging population - historically care for the disabled and elderly (many middle and working class folks unable to afford nursing home care) has accounted for most Medicaid spending; 

* Compassion and morality - GOP Govs. Gary Herbert of Utah and Matt Mead of Wyoming have made a compassionate case for Medicaid expansion. Herbert said: "It helps our neighbors, our friends and our family members", and Mead explained: "I don't think we can say to those people in Wyoming who are working (and) who cannot get insurance that we're not going to do anything." 

Moreover, retiring GOP Wisconsin state Sen. Dale Schultz has some apt parting wisdom for Walker. Schultz said that Walker's rejection of Medicaid expansion was terrible for rural health providers: "If we start leaving a billion dollars on the table again in Wisconsin I don't know how people expect we're going to keep these places open." 

Gov. Walker, don't be an Ebenezer Scrooge - take the generous federal funding for Medicaid expansion. It would be a wonderful holiday gift for Wisconsin taxpayers and Wisconsinites who need health care coverage. 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.

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