Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle announced Wednesday he will delay the introduction of the state budget as well as the implementation of the BadgerChoice health care program.
The budget will now be introduced Feb. 17 instead of its previously scheduled date of Feb. 10, while the BadgerChoice program will have to wait for an improved economic climate, according to Doyle’s spokesperson Carla Vigue.
According to Vigue, the governor decided to wait to present his proposal until he knows the specifics of any stimulus funds the state may receive from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“There’s money in the stimulus package that would be used for things like health care and education,” Vigue said. “Knowing that helps him craft a better budget.”
The act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week and is currently in Senate deliberations.
According to a White House statement Wednesday, the bill would help the state in a variety of ways, including a $100 increase in unemployment insurance benefits, making 63,000 more families eligible for a college tax credit, and creating or saving thousands of jobs over the next two years.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said he believes the governor’s decision to delay the budget was very logical.
“I think it makes a lot of sense to wait until we know exactly what’s coming in on the federal stimulus and by postponing [the budget] it will very likely give us the answers we need to have the most accurate budget as possible,” Pocan said.
Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna, agreed with Pocan, adding he believes working with the federal government will create more jobs and businesses throughout the state.
Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay, said he is more concerned about the current deficit situation than he is about the governor’s decision to delay his proposal.
“The fact that we’re putting off next year’s budget and have yet to deal with this year’s budget is more a concern to me,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery added that Wisconsin citizens are not likely to notice the delay, since the state constitution requires the Legislature to continue to fund state agencies at their current appropriations.
One of the items in the budget is the extension of BadgerCare, known as BadgerChoice, which offers health insurance coverage to eligible childless adults throughout the state and was part of the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said in an e-mail Wednesday the program will help thousands of Wisconsin residents, especially children, and will benefit Wisconsin families who lost health insurance coverage as a result of the recession.
The Wisconsin Republican Party, however, does not share the same optimism about the new law.
“While it’s a worthy goal to provide health care for as many children as possible, when our economy is struggling, we must be extra diligent when it comes to large spending increases, especially when we are talking about a $900 billion spending package,” said Republican Party of Wisconsin’s spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski.