Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday he’s open to charging more to enter and camp at Wisconsin state parks, but he’s not enthused about random drug testing for high school students involved in extracurricular activities.
Vos, in an interview with The Associated Press, also said he didn’t see any need to change the state’s recount law that was used by the Green Party to force a recount of the presidential race.
In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Vos said broader use of co-payments, premiums and fees should be considered for BadgerCare, the state health coverage program for the poor funded by Medicaid — if federal lawmakers give states greater power to manage their Medicaid programs, as President-elect Donald Trump and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan have proposed.
Vos said he has told Gov. Scott Walker that he hopes to prioritize funding for colleges and universities in the next two-year budget. State funding for the University of Wisconsin System was cut by $250 million in the last budget. Vos said he hopes to avoid another funding cut this time.
“The (UW) Regents have requested $42.5 million. I hope we can come as close to that number as possible,” Vos said. He added that new funding likely would be tied to performance measures for student graduation timelines, the number of classes taught by professors and maintaining “freedom of speech on campus.”
Vos, R-Rochester, leads Assembly Republicans who are returning in January with their largest majority since 1957. Republicans also control the Senate, marking the seventh year the GOP has been in control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office.
Vos spoke to the AP in advance of the session kicking off on Jan. 3. The focus of the session will be passing a state budget — which Walker will unveil in February — but Vos addressed a number of other issues that have recently been floated by lawmakers and others for consideration next year.
For example, the State Journal reported this month that a task force made up of lawmakers and others looking at ways to combat heroin abuse recommended that high school students participating in sports and other extracurricular activities be randomly tested for drugs.
But Vos was cool to that idea, saying, “I haven’t seen a groundswell of support for it.”
Instead, Vos said he would be open to requiring all schools to have a policy addressing opiate abuse.
“I’m not so sure I want to have a one-size fits all solution where we dictate from Madison how every single school district should do drug testing,” he said.
Earlier this year, the state Department of Natural Resources released a list of ideas for how to pay for state parks, a report the Legislature required after it removed all state support for the parks in 2015.
The DNR responded then by raising admission and camping fees, and it suggested that could be done again to help cover a projected $1.4 million annual deficit.
Vos said he would be open to that “if a case can be made for it.”
“I have always believed that services should be paid for by user fees,” Vos said. “If you’re a camper, you should pay the cost for keeping that campsite the one week you want to rent it. ... We shouldn’t be making a profit on something, but to be able to recover the costs of using a campsite, hunting or whatever it would be.” Campsites generally cost between $16 and $30 per night for Wisconsin residents depending on the park and amenities. There is also a $9.65 reservation fee. The DNR is looking at raising fees $10 per night at popular parks.
Some lawmakers have called for tightening Wisconsin’s recount law after Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, who got only about 1 percent of the vote, was able to force a recount. It concluded earlier this month and changed President-elect Donald Trump’s victory margin by only 131 votes.
“The system worked as intended,” Vos said of the recount, which did not turn up any systemic problems or evidence of fraud or security breaches.
Current state law allows candidates to request recounts, but they must pay for it unless they are within 0.25 percent of the winner. In that case, the taxpayers pay. Stein is on the hook for the total cost of the recount, which is expected to be around $3.5 million.
Vos said if someone wants to “waste” $3.5 million on a recount in Wisconsin, “I think it’s good for our economy.”
State Journal reporter Mark Sommerhauser contributed to this report.