Governor Calls for Special Session on Medicaid Expansion; Legislative Leaders Plan to Gavel Out Immediately

On May 19, Governor Tony Evers (D) signed Executive Order 116, directing the Legislature to convene a special session on his proposal to expand Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, also known as BadgerCare. The bill put forward by the governor, LRB-3568, would accept federal money to expand Medicaid coverage to about 90,000 additional people. Over the next fiscal biennium, this would bring about $1.4 billion in federal money to Wisconsin and could save the state about $634 million in general-purpose revenue, based on budget estimates from the governor’s office.

In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed by President Joe Biden (D) in March included a one-time, $1 billion incentive to encourage states to accept the federal funds. Wisconsin is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the terms of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, while 38 states have chosen to do so.

Gov. Evers previously proposed accepting the federal Medicaid expansion in his 2019-21 and 2021-23 executive budgets. However, the Republican-led Legislature has rebuffed his request both times. Last week, the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee (JFC), led by Republicans, voted to remove Medicaid expansion and hundreds of other provisions from the governor’s budget.

Gov. Evers called for the special session to take place at noon next Tuesday, May 25. Although Wisconsin’s governor has the power to call a special session, the Legislature is not obligated to consider or vote on his proposals. Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) have since indicated that they plan to gavel out of the special session immediately.

In a press release and news conference regarding his executive order, the governor also announced a list of projects that his Medicaid expansion bill would fund using the $1 billion incentive that the state would receive. Sen. Kapenga, Rep. Steineke, and other Republican legislators have responded by saying the governor should pay for the projects using some of the $2.5 billion in federal funds already available to him under the ARPA.

Major items from that list include:

  • $200 million to expand access to broadband service
  • $150 million for the state’s budget stabilization fund
  • $100 million for forgivable loans for lead pipe replacement
  • $100 million to fund local government grants for bridge construction and road improvement
  • $53 million for the Racine Community Health Center
  • $50 million to fund a loan to purchase and redevelop the Verso Paper Mill property in Wisconsin Rapids
  • $50 million for grants supporting veterans housing
  • $50 million to fund mental health programs through the state health department