State Views: Putting people before politics is crucial step for lawmakers

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Rep. Janis Ringhand
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It seems everywhere I go, I’m asked, “Why can’t you guys get along and work together?” It’s a question I often ask myself. My background is in local government, and having served as alderwoman and mayor in Evansville, we always sat at the table, talked and worked to find a solution.

We’ll never agree on everything. It’s important to have principles and ideals that you stand for and believe in. However, all too often in politics, people pick a side, dig in their heels and refuse to compromise, let alone have a respectful conversation. We tend to let the perfect get in the way of the good.

This month, Gov. Walker’s proposal to extend BadgerCare coverage for 72,000 Wisconsinites came before the Assembly. The 2013-15 budget kicked these parents and caretakers off BadgerCare. However, due to complications with enrollment in federal health insurance exchanges, the governor announced his decision to extend their BadgerCare coverage for three months. To pay for this, the governor chose to delay coverage, for three months, for 83,000 childless adults who are not covered by BadgerCare. This was one of the toughest votes of my legislative career.

Do I wish the governor had accepted federal dollars, like Minnesota, to set up our own state health insurance exchange so we didn’t have to rely on the feds? Yes. Do I wish the governor had accepted additional federal dollars for Medicaid expansion so these 83,000 childless adults would have been covered starting Jan. 1? Absolutely.

I joined my colleagues in voting for amendments that would have expanded BadgerCare coverage for more Wisconsinites and required the GOP to keep their promise to insure those 83,000 childless adults. On final passage of the bill, I joined five Democratic colleagues in voting with the Republicans to extend coverage for three months for those 72,000 parents and caregivers already in the program. I couldn’t vote to terminate their health coverage, considering the technical glitches with the federal website. This wasn’t perfect; it was nowhere close, but it was the decision I felt was right.

In another example of bipartisanship, I was encouraged to see the federal budget compromise reached by Congressman Paul Ryan, R-WI, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Again, by no means was this bill perfect. Not including the extension of unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans is a tough pill to swallow, and I wish it had been included. However, instead of pandering to the fringe, it’s a breath of fresh air seeing both sides sit down and talk to each other, working to find a solution.

Compromise doesn’t have to be a dirty word. However, compromise will never be a cake walk either. We’re elected to make the tough decisions. Oftentimes that results in us getting flack from those with us and against us. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make Wisconsin a better place to live, work and play. This, after all, is what we were elected to do.

Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, serves the 45th Assembly District. She can be reached at P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708; phone 888-534-0045; email Rep.Ringhand@legis.wi.gov.

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