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La Crosse Rep. Billings votes against state budget

WIZM staff

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State Rep. Jill Billings.

The Assembly passed the $81 billion, two-year spending plan late Tuesday night with disagreement among parties about Medicaid, transportation, and education. While it passed on a 60-39 vote, three Republicans joined all 36 Democrats in saying no.

Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse), stood against changes made by the Republican party including the choice to turn down federal dollars for Medicaid expansion. Billings said our state accepts money to help with roads and it is time to do the same for healthcare.

Republican lawmakers have expressed concern about unexpected costs for the state in the future and the impact on the private insurance market if Medicaid expands. Billings argued while there is no guarantee for the future, the state is currently losing $1 billion in funding each year.

Billings also expressed concern about cuts to education. The assembly passed a $500 million increase to K-12 funding but failed to reach Governor Evers’ request to add a total of $1.4 billion. According to Billings, local schools could benefit from more dollars, especially in special education.

“Really, I think the state needs to be a good partner in helping fund that in a better way,” Billings said on WIZM Wednesday morning. “When everybody gets the services they need in our schools, everybody does better. I was disappointed that special education fund was cut so much.”

Billings added more than 14 percent of students in the La Crosse area qualify for special education which is higher than the average state rate.

The revised budget also shifted funding for state roads from a gas tax to car registration and title fees. Billings said it is not a fair system for those who own a car but do not speed up the wear and tear of roads.

“I feel like transportation should be tied to those using the roads,” Billings said. “I supported the $.08 gas tax which would be a $4 increase a month for people who live in Wisconsin which is an increase. I will admit to that.”

The Senate is passed the budget Wednesday and it’s bound for Gov. Evers’ desk.