MON AM News: Panelists debate future of transportation funding in Wisconsin; OCI says business health insurance rule change could hurt Wisconsin workers

— DOT Secretary Craig Thompson says the transportation budget recently approved by the Joint Finance Committee is “far more responsible” than the past five, despite JFC Republicans rejecting Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to increase the gas tax.

Still, he said that proposal — which would increase the gas tax by 8 cents and index it to inflation going forward — is “the preferable way to do it.”

Earlier last week, Republicans on JFC approved increasing fees and cutting breaks for retailers to help put $483.7 million of new money into transportation over the next two years, while borrowing $326.2 million for projects.

“If you look at what we proposed with the 8-cent increase to the gas tax and indexing that, that is in line with what 30 other states have done in the past five years — including some of the reddest, most Republican states in the country,” Thompson said last week at a issues luncheon at UWM’s Waukesha campus.

He said the guv’s proposal would cost the average driver about $4 more per month. But he noted some of that tax would be levied on “Bears fans, and Lions fans and Vikings fans coming into the state.”

Thompson also added the proposal would have an administrative fee of less than 1 percent.

“For those reasons, that’s why we proposed to do it the way we did,” he said. “But what the JFC did is ongoing fees, and it’s in the Transportation Fund, and it would be constitutionally protected as well. So I think we need to be open to finding middle ground.”

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo argued Evers’ gas tax proposal wouldn’t be sustainable, and says he would prefer “a more permanent solution.”

“I also don’t agree with the concept that only the people who actually drive on the roads and use them should pay for them and benefit from them,” the New Berlin Republican said. “Every single person in the state of Wisconsin benefits from a good infrastructure system, whether you drive or you don’t.”

JFC has finished its work on the full budget, and Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he will be meeting with members Tuesday to see where they stand on the document.

During last week’s luncheon, panelists lambasted a recently floated proposal to take some of the budget surplus and distribute it evenly among counties and towns in the state.

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— Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable says a recent rule change from the Trump administration aimed at increasing small business health insurance options could lead Wisconsin workers astray.

“While consumer choice is important, we must also ensure that consumers understand what they’re getting when they buy a health insurance plan, especially those that are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act,” Afable said in a statement. “This rule by the Trump administration could hurt Wisconsin workers who end up purchasing coverage that doesn’t meet their needs.”

The rule allows employers to use health reimbursement arrangements, or HRAs, to give workers the option to buy coverage in the individual market. Administration officials say the rule provides increased flexibility to employers as well as workers and their families.

Bill Smith, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, says NFIB is supporting part of the rule “which would allow employers to provide these HRA arrangements to benefit employees.”

“We think it will be a positive step for expanding the market options for small businesses getting their health care needs taken care of,” he told “This has been a long-term priority for us. We think it will provide another tool for small business owners to help employees afford health insurance.”

He cautions that the rule is more than 500 pages long, and though he’s not aware of anything in the rule NFIB opposes, he said Friday the group’s policy expert in D.C. was still looking it over.

See the rule document here:

— A group called Better Badgercare Wisconsin has rolled out new digital and radio ads on Medicaid expansion, targeting Republican senators it says are “putting politics ahead of our health care.”

The digital ads target Sens. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay; Luther Olsen, R-Ripon; Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green; Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon; and Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point. The radio ads target Marklein, Olsen and Testin.

“What if Wisconsin could get over $1 billion from the federal government to improve health care? We can, by expanding BadgerCare, getting money we already send to Washington, but making sure it’s right here in Wisconsin,” the radio ad says.

In the radio ad, Better Badgercare Wisconsin blames “Republican party bosses in Madison” for not taking the federal expansion dollars.

The group says 70 percent of Wisconsinites support expanding BadgerCare, the state’s health care coverage program for low-income residents, claiming that would “actually cut insurance rates and bring an extra $101 million for health care right here in our local communities.”

The size of the ad buy is not being disclosed. The campaign is set to run through June 25.

See an example of the print ad:

Listen to a radio ad:

— Treasurer Sarah Godlewski is looking for solutions to Wisconsin’s student loan debt problem.

And she’s thinking the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands that she chairs could be part of the solution by facilitating student loans at cheaper rates.

Godlewski said under the approach she’s looking at, the BCPL wouldn’t lend money to college students directly. Instead, it would provide assets to lenders. The assets could be provided to the lender at a rate that would match what the board makes on current investments such as a bond. The BCPL would also negotiate the rates at which lenders could then turn around and use the money for student loans.

The BCPL oversees a fund created more than 100 years ago following the sale of most school trust lands and manages the remaining property that wasn’t sold. With $1.2 billion in assets, the agency provides funding to public school libraries and loans money to municipalities and school districts for public projects.

She believes the BCPL already has the power to take on such an initiative on student loans.

“I think we as a state can be doing more things where we have good, strong financial returns but at the same time are doing good things for our community. And so that I think is something that’s really important for us to be looking at as fiduciaries,” Godlewski told

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— The Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation is getting a $100,000 grant for pediatric cancer research from Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, or the MACC Fund.

The MACC Fund was created in 1976 by Jon McGlocklin, a former Milwaukee Bucks player and Eddie Doucette, a former Bucks play-by-play announcer. Since then, the group has given out $65 million for research on cancer and blood disorders.

“These grant funds will help us advance cutting-edge research that impacts patients today and into the future,” said Dr. Susan Turney, CEO of MCHS.

The latest donation will fund a continuing partnership with the Children’s Oncology Group, which grants MCHS access to national resources for research on cancer in children. A release shows the Fund’s support has supported Marshfield Clinic enrolling more than 100 children and young adults in both clinical research studies and therapeutic studies.

See the release:


# Despite DNC issue, Wisconsin Center board approves contract with nonunion security firm

# Full speed ahead at Exact Sciences: Building, hiring, developing new products

# Wisconsinites test their athleticism at Ninja Warrior competition

# Milwaukee’s old housing project comes to life



– Johnson’s bill to allow schools to serve whole milk to kids


– Stakeholders discuss how Wisconsin can help students navigate loans


– gener8tor will build its next Milwaukee cohort entirely from scratch


– Great Lakes leaders set up meeting on Asian carp


– Wisconsin Beer Lovers Festival returns to Glendale for 10th year

– Beer truck patio planned at Milwaukee Public Market

– There’s CBD in the salad dressing (and everything else) at a chill Fitchburg dinner


– La Crosse investors breathe new life into Madison medical device

– Abodo charges up apartment rental search engine with new funds


– Scammers posing as vendor steal $660K from Marshfield School District


– Old industrial warehouse in Riverwest turned into shared office, manufacturing space

– Milwaukee Tool’s impact on region includes 6,616 jobs, $1M on business meals: Slideshow


– JFC cuts Alliant Energy Center project from budget

– Dane County vows to move forward after funding for Alliant Energy Center improvements stripped from state budget


– Hotel, expanded convention center planned on downtown Racine lakefront site

– Developer buys land next to its planned business park in Bristol

– Milwaukee Tool plans another HQ expansion, trying to acquire more Brookfield land

– Mukwonago attracts two more projects to business park


– Kohl’s launches adaptive kidswear collection


– Weekly kids’ activities planned for summer outside Fiserv Forum


– How did solar energy get so cheap? UW prof probes history of technology


– Milwaukee Biz Blog: Transportation budget should reflect what future will bring

– Madison officials preparing for the e-bike revolution


– CUB sees consumer, environmental fights converge


– David Ahrens: Dane County must contribute to local transit solutions


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