Lawmakers discuss priorities for next legislative session

MADISON, Wis (WMTV) - Now that the lame duck legislation has passed, lawmakers are moving forward toward the next legislative session that starts in Jan. Both Democrats and Republicans discussed on Thursday how they are looking ahead.

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald spoke with reporters Thursday morning at his end-of-year press conference about priorities for the next session. Fitzgerald said Republican lawmakers will need to work together, rather than butting heads.

“We need to anticipate that and prepare our members to be able to work closer together with the other house,” he said.

Fitzgerald touched on several hot-button issues at the press conference, including how the legislature plans on handling the upcoming budget. Fitzgerald said he is open to Gov.-Elect Tony Evers plan to cut income taxes.

Fitzgerald said he is not ruling out completely the possibility of expanding Medicaid in the state.

“I don't see it right now, but there are a lot of moving parts as we know, so I don't want to be presumptuous and say it's completely ruled out,” said Fitzgerald.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, of Middleton, told NBC15 Medicaid expansion is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

"We have passed up well over a billion of our tax money that should be coming back here to help with Medicaid services in Wisconsin. Also, we can use that money to back fill holes that we have because we have not taken the expansion. I know that is something Tony Evers wants to talk about it and now that Scott Walker is gone hopefully republicans will want to talk about it too," Erpenbach said.

Erpenbach said other top priorities include transportation and education funding.

“We have to talk about transportation, that is a priority along with education funding, but transportation has a hole in it and we need to figure out not only a short-term fix, but a long-term fix. That is something that Democrats and Republicans should be able to work on together,” Erpenbach said.

Both senators clashed on the issue of legalizing medical marijuana. Erpenbach said he supports it, while Fitzgerald said he does not see it happening.