Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Jim Doyle’s Legacy, On One Page

By now, you know that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck down Governor Jim Doyle’s attempt to pilfer $200 million from the state’s doctors in order to balance the state budget.  In the 2007 budget, Doyle took $200 million out of a fund paid in to by doctors in order to partially plug a budget hole.  The fund was meant to offset the cost of malpractice claims, and held costs for doctors down – which helped keep health care costs down for patients.

The Court considered this a taking from the doctors, and did so with a 5-2 majority.  (Which, on this Court, is as much of a blowout as a 5-2 score would be in the World Cup.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this whole debacle is the Doyle Administration’s reaction to it.  The press release Doyle issued today is compelling, as it is a perfect representation of eight years of his reign.  In one page, the Governor was able to provide a perfect epitaph to his reign.  Consider it a Doyle chrestomathy.

Some choice passages from “The Jim Doyle Reader:”

The state Supreme Court has determined that the legislature was prohibited from using funds from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund to support health care.

One sentence in, and we already have ourselves a howler.  “The legislature” was prohibited?  Keep in mind – Doyle was only able to successfully raid the Patient’s Compensation Fund (known by a different name now) after the legislature prevented him from doing so in 2003 and 2005.  Finally, in the 2007 budget, with Democrats controlling the State Senate and within a sliver of controlling the State Assembly, Doyle got his way.

Jim Doyle was the sole driving force behind taking these funds.  To suggest otherwise is preposterous.  But it gloriously demonstrates Doyle’s willingness to blame others and not take a shred of blame for his failures.

Paragraph two:

The $200 million transfer allowed the state to leverage an additional $300 million in federal funding.

And, as we all know, the end (more federal funding), justifies any means we use to get it.  I’m sure if Doyle stole money from all kinds of people it would be worth all the money the feds (in this case, the Bush Administration) rained upon us.  Just think how much federal money Wisconsin could have “leveraged” if we started kicking over old ladies and snatching their purses.  (Although if we stole my grandmother’s purse, the feds would have to match the state with 30 million cans of Aqua Net hairspray.)

Further down:

Today’s decision will not benefit any injured patients, it will not benefit anyone’s health – it will only benefit the peace of mind of a few members of the State Medical Society.

(Actually, it’s the Wisconsin Medical Society, but who really fact checks anymore?)  Or, perhaps it will benefit the peace of mind of the 13,431 doctors and other health care providers who paid in to the fund in 2009, and whose money was stolen from them to spackle over the fiscal mismanagement of this governor.

Final paragraph:

“An additional $200 million in cuts authorized in the budget, which we hoped to at least partially avoid, and other savings measures will now need to be implemented.”

“Other savings measures?”  Wasn’t “stealing money from doctors” booked as a “savings measure?”  Do we have any faith that anything they propose is going to actually save money?  Keep in mind that when this administration says they’re “cutting,” it’s rarely a cut at all.  In fact, it’s often a one-time fund swap that exacerbates the problem.

Perhaps the Supreme Court should already schedule a day three years from now when it can undo whatever Governor Doyle’s “savings measures” are today.

More final paragraph:

“We will also need to make additional cuts to the Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus programs through across-the board reductions in provider rates. These programs provide health care to 1.1 million Wisconsin citizens.”

This is the denouement.  There’s so much in these two sentences.

First of all, those programs provide health care to 1.1 million Wisconsin citizens because they were created without any way to pay for them.  Doyle overextended government by paying for a program with stolen funds, now he complains that there are a whole lot of people on the programs?  Whose fault is that?

Secondly, here you see the side of Jim Doyle capitol observers have gotten to know so well.  He promises to cut funding to the same doctors who had the temerity to challenge his theft.  It’s a vindictive threat – and perfectly caps off the Jim Doyle Story as will be told by the history books.  He just can’t help but threaten payback to his opponents.  What a sad man.

Of course, if he were to cut funds to providers, it would have the effect not of punishing doctors necessarily, but raising rates on patients with private insurance.  Doctors will need to make that cut up by raising rates on the insured.  So congratulations, Governor Doyle – your vindictive cut will have the effect of increasing the cost of health insurance.  You really showed ’em.

(Incidentally, it’s telling that Doyle sends his Secretary of Administration, the well-liked Dan Schooff, out to deliver his threats.  What a coward.)

As a postscript to all this, there’s a hidden portion of the Justice Prosser’s majority decision in the case overturning Doyle’s raid that deserves notice.  In paragraph 58 of the opinion, Prosser cites a 1995 Attorney General’s opinion that points out the “longstanding view in Wisconsin law that trust funds are to be treated differently than general revenue, and that the state has less power to regulate the use of trust funds.”

The author of that quote?

Jim Doyle.


  1. How many more days? How many more minutes? Can’t wait til election day.

  2. Kenneth A. Geller

    July 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    He just does not get it! To improve health care increase wealth! The government can not do that, only the private sector. Government should facilitate the creation of wealth by leaving us alone!

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