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Can't or Won't Release HSHS Funds?

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 22 May 2024 in Wisconsin

healthcare-family-drSen. Smith sets the record straight on misinformation floating around about why Republicans on Joint Finance continue to stall the release of $15 million in already-approved money to address the health care crisis facing the Chippewa Valley.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - Social media can be a useful tool. We can easily share pictures and stories with friends and family. It can be used for business applications from marketing to educating the public. And there is no doubt that we can search for answers to problems and questions we may have.

But social media can also be a tool to deceive or confuse followers. By now most of us know to be leery of what we see on Facebook, Instagram and other media. It can be bothersome, but it is always best to question what someone may claim in a post, especially if it seems too good to be true or too horrible to believe.

That’s why I do what I can to provide background that readers can search for themselves so they know where I get my information from and I didn’t just make it up.

chippewa-valley-hshsThe shocking hospital closures we have seen here in western Wisconsin seemed to open the door of opportunity to false information and rumors. Not unusual when we are desperate for answers; especially when your health is at stake.

I’ve seen and heard comments regarding the actions taken in the Capitol on the hospital closures that are simply ludicrous and harmful. When we should be joined together in solving this problem, it has become another opportunity for some to make it political.

I don’t want to accuse my own colleagues on the other side of the aisle of purposely spreading falsities. I’d rather believe that it’s ignorance or a simple misunderstanding.

There were two bills introduced by Republicans – Senate Bill 1014 (SB 1014) which restricted funding for the closure crisis. Senate Bill 1015 (SB 1015) transferred $15 million to the Joint Finance Committee to release to area health care providers. The Governor vetoed SB 1014 so we won’t be restricted for responding to the crisis. He also partially vetoed SB 1015 and signed the $15 million into law. The funding is currently awaiting release from the Joint Finance Committee. Republicans control the Joint Finance Committee with 12 members while Democrats have 4.

I’ve heard outrageous claims that the Joint Finance Committee cannot release funding because of the Governor’s vetoes. That’s flat-out false. The Joint Finance Committee has released money countless times after Governors partially veto bills. The $15 million was passed into law.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has already requested the funds and the Joint Finance Committee is refusing to act. Instead, they offer excuses and try to blame the Governor.

Instead of restricting the funds for only emergency room construction, the Governor’s veto allows area health care providers to use the funding for all of the following:

a. Increase Emergency Department Capacity/Service

b. Expand Urgent Care Services

c. Expand Inpatient Psychiatric Unit

d. Expand Inpatient OB/GYN Services

e. Expand Mental Health and/or Substance Use Services

f. Expand or Establish Hospital-Owned and Operated Ambulance Service

Republicans know they are wrong and they don’t want to hear the truth. Instead of releasing the money from the Joint Finance Committee like they’ve always done, they manufactured their excuse and are doubling down on restricting the money for this crisis. All of this after Gov. Evers called for them to meet twice to no avail.

jeff-smithThey know they are wrong and it couldn’t be more evident than how they acted on the Senate floor last week. When I attempted to speak on their misguided attempt to override the Governor’s veto, I was ignored and Republicans immediately voted despite numerous objections. This is yet another example of Republican refusing to acknowledge the truth.

Now, Republicans have chosen to ignore the desperation felt over the closures, and they've chosen to weaponize this for their campaigns. As Senator Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) said last week, this is, “the last gasp of a gerrymandered majority.”

We will need to wait until after the election for the legislature to do the right thing. New, more competitive maps will produce a legislature that will listen. In the meantime, Republicans are leaving the rest of us in the Chippewa Valley to fend for ourselves.

Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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