Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Looking in the Funding Mirror

Last week, George Lightbourn and I released a report that demonstrated that the proposed \”Healthy Wisconsin\” government health plan would run a large deficit. As expected, proponents of the plan pushed back – yet without addressing any of the concerns raised in the report.

I chuckled when I saw the following quote from State Senator Jon Erpenbach in Friday\’s Wispolitics REPORT, referencing the study:

I don\’t know where they\’re getting their numbers, and second of all I\’d like to know who backs them financially on this stuff. – Healthy Wisconsin sponsor Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, on the WPRI report.

First of all, it\’s pretty easy to figure out where we got our numbers, since we lay that all out in the report, which Erpenbach clearly didn\’t read. In fact, most of our data comes from the Lewin Reports on both the Wisconsin Health Plan and Healthy Wisconsin – reports which Erpenbach himself commissioned and uses to bolster his plan. Maybe he should get around to reading those, too, since he paid for them.

In fact, the math is pretty easy – the state Department of Revenue expects incomes to rise at 4.6% per year over the next 10 years. The Lewin Group expects health care costs to rise 6.5% per year over that same time. That creates a gap that has to be funded – and the Lewin Group itself says the plan will have to raise taxes in the future to make up the deficit. If Erpenbach disagrees with that premise, perhaps he should get his money back from the Lewin folks.

The second irrelevant criticism leveled at our report is to question our funding. This is even more entertaining, since people who spend all day polluting comment threads on blogs somehow aren\’t able to perform a Google search to research WPRI\’s funding. But, of course, this is all just a sideshow to distract people from the actual criticisms of the plan that we level – since proponents of the plan don\’t really have an answer. Regardless of our funding (and honestly, I don\’t even really know much about it), the facts are the facts – just ask the group commissioned by Jon Erpenbach to research the issue.

And as long as we\’re on the funding issue, it might be instructive to look at who\’s funding Jon Erpenbach\’s effort to get Healthy Wisconsin passed. You may remember last year, when Erpenbach may have violated state law by co-mingling lobbyist money with his campaign funds to produce a poll showing support for Healthy Wisconsin.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Lawmakers who joined with interest groups to conduct a poll on a proposed universal health care plan might have violated campaign finance laws by taking money from groups not authorized to make political contributions.

State Elections Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy hadn\’t seen all the details of the arrangement Tuesday but said Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson (D-Beloit) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) might have benefited from special-interest funds that aren\’t allowed into the electoral process.

The two senators contributed campaign funds toward a poll also bankrolled by groups that cannot give to candidates.

If the interest groups had paid for the poll themselves and simply given it to the senators, there would be no trouble, Kennedy said. Potential problems have arisen because the poll combined political and non-political money.

\”Our concern would be to make sure non-political money wasn\’t providing a political benefit\” to the senators, Kennedy said.

Oops. Maybe Erpenbach, who thinks we should use taxpayer money to run political campaigns in order to lessen the influence of lobbyists, should start the effort by actually adhering to the law himself.

1 Comment

  1. It seems pretty clear that WPRI has received insurance industry funds even while pushing against Healthy Wisconsin, and Christian Schneider would prefer not discussing any conflict of interest that money could create for a so-called “think tank.” I’m puzzled that he just doesn’t just say so, but I guess that’s the new “responsible” way of advocating today. Got to take care of your funders, don’cha know.

    As one who has been “polluting comment threads on blogs,” I oppose WPRI’s position. Healthy Wisconsin would be the best thing that could happen to our state’s businesses and economy, but admittedly, not our insurance businesses that are funding WPRI.

    HW would eliminate the 31% of costs that the insurance bureaucracy is draining from health care, so I understand why the industry would hire lobbying organizations to throw cold water wherever they can.

    But one need only look at the GM plant closing in Janesville. They are now making more cars in Ontario than in Detroit because, in part, health care there costs just $800 per employee per year versus $6500 in the US.

    Where are our heads? Or better, where are our loyalties?

    As to Sen. Erpenbach’s loyalties, they seem to be to his constituents. And his efforts on campaign finance reform would also benefit Wisconsin, though WPRI seems to oppose even clean government.

    Where are the heads of WPRI leaders? In their wallet?

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