Looking for Answers

Medicaid is the joint federal-state program that pays hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and other health professionals to provide care for low-income families, including frail elderly persons and individuals with disabilities. It has been the fastest growing part of the state budget.

What’s going on with Medicaid spending? Where is the money going? Is health care really costing that much more?

We pondered these questions at a recent gathering of regional health administrators in La Crosse. I shared budget numbers from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

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Who Will Be My Teacher?

“Who will be my teacher?” my son asked me years ago. For a brief point in time, the teacher was the most important person in his young life.

As children head back to school and parents scramble with new schedules, schools are facing their own scheduling headaches. This year a teacher shortage hit many local schools. Around the state, school districts have hundreds of vacancies.

Recently, I presented an overview of state education budget issues in Viroqua. At least a dozen local superintendents, school board members, principals and teachers were in the audience. Following my presentation, the conversation turned to the teacher shortage.

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Finding Help for Flooded Families and Farms

“It gets overwhelming,” my neighbor told me. We were walking through her flooded barnyard. Floodwaters left silt everywhere: in the house, the garden, the barn, and the farmyard.

Family members were working hard to clean up. But they were filled with unanswered questions: where to go and what to do?

Western Wisconsin was hit with several severe rainstorms in the past few weeks. Early morning on August 11 parts of Buffalo County received 5 ½ to 11 ½ inches of rain in just 45 minutes. The beautiful rolling hills intensified the power of the water as it raced towards the lowest point.

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Where Did All that Money Go? Business Tax Credit Costs Pile Up

“Where did all that money go?” Dennis asked me during a recent visit to the Jackson County Fair.

Dennis is one of many constituents who ask where the money for schools and roads is as our state recovers from the recession. Economic recovery means more money and more money should equal more resources for the public. Instead, state funds are very tight. For example, state aid to local public schools is less now than in 2006.

One reason is that the state is not collecting tax money from some large, and in several cases, very profitable companies. Recently I received a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau detailing the awards given out for one large tax credit known as the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit. This credit – originally conceived to help rural communities – has morphed into large credits for single companies.

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