MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that if he’s re-elected, he’ll increase state funding for schools to two-thirds of their total costs, echoing a pledge made this summer by his Democratic opponent, Tony Evers.
Evers, meanwhile, continued to keep the spotlight on health care, campaigning with former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to argue that Walker is lying when he says he supports insurance guarantees for people with pre-existing conditions. Also on Monday, Walker promised to increase funding for town roads, another vow Evers dismissed as a “joke.”
Education, roads and health care have been key issues in the governor’s race, which polls show is a tossup just three weeks before the Nov. 6 election.
The eventful day of campaigning saw both Walker and Evers campaigning with former governors and U.S. health secretaries. While Evers was with Sebelius, the former Kansas governor, Walker campaigned with Tommy Thompson, the 14-year governor of Wisconsin who then served as George W. Bush’s health secretary.
Walker, at stop at Pro Engineering and Manufacturing in Milwaukee, likened the choice voters have now to 1986 when Thompson first ran, saying now is not the time to turn back. He noted that two-thirds state funding for schools began under Thompson in 1996 and now Walker says he can bring it back without raising property taxes.
Walker said that can be done by keeping in place the Act 10 law, which took away collective bargaining powers from teachers and forced them to pay more for benefits. But he didn’t specify how he would come up with the estimated $130 million more a year it would take in funding to reach two-thirds funding.
“He just said the words ‘two-thirds,’” Evers said. “That means nothing.”
Evers contends that his two-thirds funding plan can also be done without raising property taxes, but it doesn’t spell out where the money would come from.
Evers has said that if he’s elected, he’d work to restore some of the collective bargaining power lost under Act 10, though teachers and other public workers might still be required to pay a portion of their benefits costs.
The state last paid for two-thirds of school costs in the 2002-2003 school year, the year after Thompson left office. The law was repealed as part of the 2003 state budget.
After dipping to a low of 61.7 percent in Walker’s first year as governor in 2011, the state share of public school costs has slowly increased to 65.4 percent for the current year - just shy of $7 billion. It would take about $130 million to get to 66.6 percent.
Evers was focused on health care Monday, saying that Walker is being disingenuous when he promises that everyone with pre-existing conditions will be covered. If he truly believed that, Evers said, Walker would pull Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
“He’s just not telling the truth,” Evers said.
But Walker insisted for him the issue is personal, noting that his mother is a cancer survivor, his wife has diabetes and his brother has a heart condition.
“We will always cover pre-existing conditions,” Walker said. He wants to reinstate high risk pools that critics say will be more expensive and not result in as many people having coverage as do now.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.
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