Evers and Barnes Demand The GOP Stop Holding Healthcare Fixes Hostage
Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Progress hindered on numerous fronts by Trump to state-level GOP leaders.

From President Donald Trump to GOP leaders in the Legislature, Republicans are standing in the way of progress on several fronts in Wisconsin, say the state’s governor and lieutenant governor.

That was a message from Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes Monday during an interview with UpNorthNews in which societal disparities laid bare by COVID-19 have been further pushed to the forefront of public discussion since the killing of George Floyd. 

It is not new news that Wisconsin ranks as one of the worst states for African Americans in terms of health care disparities, incarceration rates and poverty statistics. 

Consider the fact that while African Americans make up 6 percent of Wisconsin’s population, they account for 19 percent of total COVID-19 cases and 35 percent of virus-related deaths, according to the state Department of Health Services. Similarly, Hispanics represent 7 percent of the state’s population, but 34 percent of the total cases and 10 percent of the COVID-related deaths.

“Clearly there is a solution out there and that is expanding Medicaid,” Evers said. “Expanding Medicaid will cover more people, will give more people health insurance but more importantly it brings in more than $1 billion to our state to address the disproportionate health outcomes African Americans have and people of color have in Wisconsin.”

The public supports, and Evers and Mandela successfully ran on a platform to expand Medicaid. 

“The Legislature is being held hostage by a pack of ideologues,” Barnes said. 

Evers said Republican leaders have been using the same lines for years as reason not to accept federal money to expand the healthcare program, even as other states controlled by the GOP have changed course. 

“Some of the reddest states in the nation do figure it out. Why are we such a conservative state on this issue when it is going to impact everybody, no matter who they vote for,” Evers said. “No one is going to get voted out of office because they have expanded Medicaid. That’s ridiculous.”

Another round of stimulus funding from Congress would also be helpful, Evers said. While some Republicans used Friday’s unemployment numbers as a sign the economy is rebounding and additional funds are not needed, Evers said he can’t imagine the rate of unemployment among African Americans and Latinos is not still higher than it is among whites.

“There is absolutely a need for stimulus money. Frankly there is a need to backfill state and local governments on their revenues,” Evers said. “We can’t afford to do anything if we don’t have resources and tax collections are lower. We can’t print money but the federal can and they should.”

Demonstrations across the country have been occurring on a daily basis since Floyd’s killing May 25 by Minneapolis police officers. Evers said he is encouraged by the fact the demonstrations are occurring not only in larger cities like Madison and Milwaukee but in smaller communities across the state. 

As for rhetoric coming from President Trump concerning the ongoing demonstrations, Barnes said “I can’t think of many situations where the President has stepped in and made it better.”

Evers said he was on the call with other governors when Trump said he was going to be the president of ‘law and order’ and fix the situation by being “overly mean to people,” in Evers’ words.

“The people of this country have stood up and said ‘enough is enough and we need to move forward,’” Evers said. “Unfortunately, if the President doesn’t come along with us we are going to fix it without him.”