Madison hootenanny

The leisurely summer pace of state government is highlighted by preparation for the new federal health-care law and renewed Walker administration threats to arrest those singing noontime labor songs in the Capitol Rotunda.

Gov. Scott Walker continues to travel America, talking to Republican groups and promoting his name recognition among Tea Party groups. Clearly he is interested in more than being governor.

The Legislature and the swarm of lobbyists have gone home and the State Supreme Court is planning for autumn hearings. The torrent of e-mails from political factions and special-interest groups has dwindled to a trickle.

The public seems more interested in the Green Bay Packers, the Ryan Braun saga, the State Fair, and getting ready for a new school year. It’s vacation time from politics for just about everyone.

The protest singers, sometimes a bit off-key, stem from the 2011 law which gutted government employee unions. But the singing continues to annoy the Walker administration which has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to stop it.

A judge has ruled that any group with at least 21 participants needs a permit to be in the Capitol Rotunda. Enter the Capitol police with warnings of arrest. The heavy-handed approach has drawn hoots from the singers and seemed to revive them.

Walker may see the law-andorder efforts as enhancing his political image. Or perhaps the governor just wants to keep the anti-union issue alive for the 2014 gubernatorial election and the national Republican sweepstakes in 2016.

First the 2014 election. Democrats will be asking Walker how much of the taxpayers’ money has been spent trying to get the sing- ers out of the State Capitol. Did the noontime singers damage state government?

Then there is 2016. Stopping the Capitol singing is a long way from breaking a police strike, something that vaulted Calvin Coolidge into the vice presidency in 1921 which led to the presidency in 1923.

The state-by-state implementation of the federal health-are act, dubbed Obamacare, is far more reaching and important. The law is aimed at requiring people to get health insurance either through their employers or purchase through exchanges. The federal law opened the door for millions of dollars in subsidies and expansion of Medicaid.

Walker has rejected the additional federal Medicaid money that could have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the state. The governor says the federal government might not be able to continue such aid in later years.

Refusing federal money is not new to Walker. The governor rejected federal assistance for high-speed passenger trains. The states which instead received the money were delighted by the Wisconsin move.

Wisconsin’s approach to Obamacare was to reorganize its BadgerCare program, but that leaves tens of thousands of persons who will be pushed into the health-insurance buying market. Will health insurance prices be affordable or even come down? Will Wisconsin do better than the states which accepted additional federal Medicaid monies?

Walker is confident about his approach. If Wisconsin does better than other states, it could help his national ambitions for 2016.

On the other hand, many Republicans merely want to repeal Obamacare and return to the old health-care system of a decadeor so ago. Walker probably could sing that song as well as other GOP leaders.

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