MacIver News Service | April 16, 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal makes myriad changes that make it a lot easier for people to move onto welfare.
One of the changes is a little-known provision in the Democrat’s budget plan that would end a requirement demanding fathers pay a portion of Medicaid-related birthing expenses.
Evers’ budget creates an exemption that would prohibit the state from seeking recovery of taxpayer-funded birth costs from the biological father, if the mother and father live apart.
The costs of child birth for eligible mothers are generally borne by taxpayers under Medical Assistance programs. Current law, however, provides that the state may recover birth expenses through child support obligations.
Evers would effectively end that portion of the obligation.
“Tony Evers is cutting child support,” state Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) told MacIver News Service late last week on the Jay Weber Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN. “…(W)hy would you cut child support, money for the counties that is for child support?”
According to Kooyenga, the reason in part involves feminist rejection of child support payments.
“We asked about this,” the senator said. “The reason they they gave is there is a progressive element that believes that women don’t need men.”
The Evers administration did not return MacIver News Service’s requests for comment.
Critics say the proposal sends a bad message to fathers that they need not be responsible for the birthing costs of their children.
Bobby Peterson, executive director of the Madison nonprofit law firm ABC for Health, told the Legislative Council Study Committee on Child Placement and Support in February that collecting birth costs inhibits prenatal care. Peterson noted that Wisconsin has the highest infant mortality rates in the nation. Ending the practice of birth cost recovery, as many other states have, would help promote and build family relationships, Peterson told the committee.
But ending the practice also could hit county budgets hard. The provision would discontinue the 15 percent cut that local child support offices get for medical support recovery dollars collected. The incentive has helped make Wisconsin one of the most successful states in child birth cost recovery.
“The bill would effectively reduce local revenues because birth costs would no longer be collectible,” the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau notes in its summary of Evers’ budget proposal.
Racine County’s Child Support Office collected more than $700,000 in birth-related costs last year, with about 85 percent going to reimburse the Medicaid program, according to the Racine Journal Times. The remaining 15 percent, or $106,669 stayed in the county’s coffers.
County child support offices around the state would have to find revenue elsewhere to make up for those kinds of losses.