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Democrats to move quickly on new hospital tax

Wisconsin legislators could vote as early as mid-February on the proposed new hospital tax that's designed to bring in more federal Medicaid dollars.

Republicans stripped the tax from the last two state budgets.

But this time, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, says it will be part of the state's own economic stimulus package which will piggy-back what's done at the federal level.

Pocan says the tax would be retroactive to last July so higher Medicaid funding could arrive during the current fiscal year.

Medicaid is both a state and federal program.

Under its funding formula, every dollar the state government collects from hospitals would bring in $1.65 in federal funds.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake says the new hospital tax could free up state tax dollars pledged for health care.

That money would help close Wisconsin's $5.4 billion budget deficit while hospitals with the most Medicaid patients would get more money to treat those people.

Senate GOP Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Juneau, calls it a "sick tax."

He says some of the money would be "skimmed off" for unrelated projects, just like when Gov. Jim Doyle raided the state's transportation fund in the past.