Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Legislators unable to override veto

The Wisconsin State Senate voted yesterday to uphold Gov. Jim Doyle's budget veto of a 1.4 percent annual increase in nursing home Medicaid reimbursements. Senators voted 20-13, falling two votes short of passing the legislation.

While the vote frustrated a number of Republicans, it vindicated Democrats upset over last week's controversial Assembly override of the veto, which fell one vote short of the necessary two-thirds majority due to the accidental absence of State Rep. Pedro Colón, D-Milwaukee, during the vote.

"We are disappointed that [the Senate] failed to override the governor's veto," Christine Mangi, Republican Party of Wisconsin communications director said. "It's a letdown because it leaves our state's most vulnerable citizens at risk."

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However, while nursing homes also view the situation as a disappointment, they don't see the failure to override the veto as one of monolithic, ill-intentioned forces.

"We are optimistic that legislators from both sides of the aisle will agree on legislation to provide nursing homes with the much-deserved increase in funding," John Sauer, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, said.

Expressing his confidence in the state's legislators, Sauer pointed to the shared bipartisan goal in working towards the public's best interest, carefully reiterating that legislative dispute does not stem from a general animosity toward the elderly.

Sauer said he does not recall any legislator speaking against the well-being of nursing homes, adding the pending question now is "what legislation will ultimately be crafted, passed and signed into law" to successfully guarantee an increase in funding.

State Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, and State Rep. Gary Sherman, D-Port Wing, could potentially provide the answer to such a question, presenting Senate Bill 343, which would amend certain statutes in order to balance general fund structures, in effect increasing nursing home Medical Assistance reimbursement.

Widely supported by a number of Democratic Assembly and Senate legislators as well as the Governor, SB-343 has been recently referred to the Committee on Health, Children, Families, Aging and Long-Term Care and currently awaits further review.

"The governor urges the Legislature to get to work on passing [SB-343] which provides an increase in funding without hurting education and property-tax payers," Doyle spokesperson Ethnie Groves said.

While Republicans accused Senate Democrats of failing to pass the allegedly better-quality budget provision, many Democratic legislators suggested SB-343 was ultimately more responsible and honest.

State Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee and a primary author of SB-343, said she supported an increase in Medicaid payments to nursing homes, but overriding the governor's veto "is not the right way to do it."

Taylor added yesterday's vote was not an honest effort in shaping public policy: "It was a partisan attempt to embarrass the governor."

Taylor said the legislature needs to look ahead after the failure to override the governor's veto, adding they should "be thankful this ugly episode is behind us, and move forward with a responsible plan to support nursing homes, their residents and staff."

But Sauer said the failure to override the veto "is just one step in the legislative process."

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