Wisconsin's Gov. Walker Rejects Obamacare Funds
Written By: Alex Newman | Posted: Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Following months of activism by Tea Party and conservative groups in Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker decided to officially reject millions of federal taxpayer dollars in the form of controversial ObamaCare grants that came with numerous "strings attached." Critics of the President's wildly unpopular health law greeted the news with relief.
The timing, according to activists, was perfect - a new wave of pressure was about to be unleashed on Walker from the Right just as union bosses and Democrats prepare a recall effort attempting to unseat him. Several pieces of legislation were also moving forward at the Capitol in Madison to stop any further compliance with federal mandates and to undo any damage already inflicted.
But Gov. Walker stepped up to the plate. He just directed the state Department of Health Services to inform the federal government that Wisconsin would be discontinuing any further development of its ObamaCare-mandated "health exchange." Some progress had already been made, although just how much remains unclear.
"Stopping the encroachment of ObamaCare in our state, which has the potential to have a devastating impact on Wisconsin's economy, is a top priority," Gov. Walker explained when announcing his decision on Wednesday. "Wisconsin has been a leader and innovator in health care reform for two decades, and we have achieved a high level of health insurance coverage without federal mandates."
The state will also be turning down almost $50 million in funding from the federal health scheme's "Early Innovator Grant" program - a demand Tea Party activists and conservative legislators in the state have been making for months. Pro-health freedom groups in Wisconsin had for weeks been sending lawmakers and Gov. Walker letters with pieces of string enclosed to protest the state's acceptance of the funds and to educate them on the various conditions attached to the grant.
Until the latest announcement, Wisconsin was the only state in America with a GOP Governor to have accepted and kept the money - Kansas and Oklahoma both sent it back. Critics were especially concerned that accepting the funds would undermine Wisconsin's pending lawsuit against ObamaCare.
Wisconsin is one of more than two dozen states currently suing the federal government to stop the unconstitutional health law. A federal judge agreed that the bill overstepped Congress' constitutional authority, but he refused to block it because some of the states involved - including Wisconsin - were already implementing certain portions of it. The Supreme Court will now be taking up the matter.
"Wisconsin needs to be seen as non-compliant by the time the Supreme Court hears arguments in March. Not after," noted the Wisconsin 9/12 Project shortly before Walker's announcement. "Otherwise this state will continue to compromise its credibility on the question of constitutionality and undermine the overall integrity of the 26-state case, particularly on the severability [of the individual mandate from the broader law] issue. The clock is ticking."
Finally, Gov. Walker will be repealing the executive order passed early last year that created the so-called "Office of Free Market Health Care," his office explained. By signing executive order 57 to repeal the controversial department, which critics blasted as an example of "corporatism," activists hope Wisconsin will officially become completely ObamaCare free.
"When job creators and Wisconsin families are facing difficult times it doesn't make sense to commit to a federal health care mandate that will result in hidden taxes for Wisconsin families, increased health care costs and insurance premiums, and more uncertainty in the private sector," noted Gov. Walker, who has loudly opposed ObamaCare despite the recent controversies.
Tea Party groups and conservative activists agreed wholeheartedly with the Governor. And for months, along with state lawmakers, they had been pressuring Walker to change course.
"We believe it's imperative to protect Wisconsin's sovereignty by rejecting PPACA's string-filled grants and the implementation of Obamacare through healthcare exchanges," noted President Oriannah Paul of a Wisconsin Tea Party group known as the Sheboygan Liberty Coalition. "We have a small window of opportunity to address these critical issues."
The Wisconsin 9/12 Project was also instrumental in finally ending the state's compliance with ObamaCare, having helped push the "strings" protest flooding the Capitol with letters and small pieces of string. It, too, generally supported Gov. Walker - especially after his tough fight with public-servant union bosses and the Democrat politicians they fund.
But the group's leadership was starting to wonder out loud what was really going on. Was Walker just getting bad advice?
"If the Governor puts Wisconsin on solid economic and budgetary footing only to forfeit states' rights and personal freedoms through Obamacare compliance, he will ultimately have done us no good at all," the conservative organization said on its website. "Moreover, from a purely fiscal standpoint, he will undermine all of the laudable work he's achieved to date. Obamacare, by anyone's projections will bury Wisconsin in debt."
Even national groups - many of which supported Walker in the high-profile showdown with well-compensated union bosses - were urging the state to stop moving forward on ObamaCare. And publicity surrounding the controversy was starting to grow.
"Given the current fiscal situation that the federal government has created, there should not be any money flowing from the federal government to state governments, particularly in an area where government has no constitutional authority," spokesman Bill Hahn for the Wisconsin-based John Birch Society was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. "Wisconsin, and all other states, should not be accepting the 'Early Innovator' grants from the federal government."
Other organizations like the libertarian Cato Institute had also been critical of states implementing ObamaCare. Of particular concern was that cooperating on the implementation of an unconstitutional law would severely discredit the states that were simultaneously suing to have ObamaCare thrown out. Numerous prominent advocacy groups offered a similar analysis.
As The New American reported in November, activists in Wisconsin felt betrayed when Gov. Walker adopted a so-called "emergency rule" to bypass the legislature and bring the state into compliance with ObamaCare. Lawmakers, led by Republican state Sen. Frank Lasee, had done their best to ensure that Wisconsin would not willingly submit to the federal government on the issue.
Walker, however, went forward. Acting on bad advice, according to his defenders, who said he might have been trying to keep state control over the health exchanges instead of letting the feds take over, Walker proceeded with implementation anyway via executive decrees. But following an uproar among activists and lawmakers complaining that ObamaCare endangered the rights of Wisconsinites, the Governor finally withdrew the rule in December.
The battle to stop the federal health scheme in Wisconsin, however, was not over yet - the state still had not refused the ObamaCare grant money or the many strings attached to it. State Sen. Lasee and others kept the pressure on.
"Those pressing for a state or federal health insurance exchange in Wisconsin have misled people by telling them it will produce cost savings for both consumers and taxpayers. A government exchange will increase costs substantially both for consumers and taxpayers," noted Sen. Lasee in a January 9 editorial advocating that Wisconsin back out of the program - especially in light of the looming Supreme Court showdown and the upcoming elections that could see ObamaCare repealed. "Those saying otherwise may have their own interests at heart but certainly not those of Wisconsin and its citizens."
With Gov. Walker's announcement on Wednesday, the issue might be over - for now. But with the Big Labor and its Democrat allies plotting to recall the Governor after he took on public-servant unions to save taxpayers money and balance the budget, that could change.
The Supreme Court will hear the 26-state challenge to ObamaCare in March. Even if the high court somehow does not strike down the law, however, more and more states are exercising their rightful authority to nullify unconstitutional federal statutes. And ObamaCare, already extraordinarily unpopular, is being rejected by more and more state governments nationwide.