APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Gov. Scott Walker and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson got into a heated exchange over health care on Friday.
Gov. Scott Walker and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson get into a heated exchange about health care during the governor's visit to Appleton to promote tourism on May 5, 2017 (WBAY photo)
The governor was in Appleton to promote state tourism at the site of the future Fox Cities Exhibition Center.
Walker was just approaching reporters after speaking at the construction site when Nelson stepped in.
As he shook hands with the county executive, Nelson brought up the Republican health care bill, saying 300,000 people in Northeast Wisconsin could lose their insurance if the American Health Care Act becomes law.
Video shows Nelson raised the issue while shaking hands with the governor, and began by speaking into the governor's ear.
The governor replies, "If you want to have a press conference, go ahead. He'll have a press conference. No, no. If the county executive wants to have a press conference on something else, you can talk to him later, but if you want to steal away from tourism you can do that."
Nelson interjects, "No, no. This is a big deal. Three-hundred thousand people in Northeast Wisconsin."
"If you want to run for Congress, you had your chance," the governor replies, repeating it seven times during their exchange.
Nelson ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year. He lost to Republican Mike Gallagher.
Rep. Gallagher voted in favor of the American Health Care Act, which passed by four votes Thursday, 217-213.
"It's not in front of us right now. It's not in front of this stage," the governor says. "The plan is, I'm going to wait for what the Senate and the President do and see from there."
Earlier Friday, Gov. Walker said he would consider seeking a waiver under the Republicans' American Health Care Act that lets insurance companies charge people more if they have pre-existing conditions.
States that receive waivers would receive federal funds for high-risk insurance pools to help temper the cost of insurance for patients who qualify, and Gov. Walker says Wisconsin has handled high-risk pools successfully in the past.
The governor refused federal funds to expand Medicaid offered under the Affordable Care Act.
Nelson continues, "Just to be clear, 300,000."
"Just so we're clear folks," the governor says to the surrounding media, "just to be clear, the county executive wants to take away from tourism right now and play a political stunt."
"About a topic that has nothing to do with what we're talking about today. It's on an issue that was voted on in front of the House of Representatives, but is not even going forward in the Senate right now. We'll take a look at it when it goes through the United States Senate. We're going to lobby in a way that allows us to do the things we've done here in the state of Wisconsin for the first time in the history of the state we cover everyone I think in Medicaid. It's something we didn't do Tom when you served in the Legislature."
"Nope, nope. So you don't support the legislation?" Nelson asks.
"There was a waiting list -- a waiting list for people living in poverty when you served in the state Legislature. I removed that waiting list so that no one living -- you can make up the facts," the governor says.
"You have sent to other states hundreds of millions of dollars for the Medicaid expansion, taking care of everything from the opioid crisis you're dealing with, for health insurance for those individuals. We're not," Nelson said.
"You had your chance with the voters in this state in the northeast part of Wisconsin to run for Congress. The voters rejected your opinion."
"You're making this political," Nelson said.
"The voters rejected--"
"You are the one making this political," Nelson emphasized.
"My goodness," Walker said. "Ask anyone else here. Was this the approach? You can contact me in office. (Appleton) Mayor Hanna talked to me about this project (the exhibition center). He didn't come here and interrupt something based on tourism."
"I think this is a big issue."
"If you want to play politics, you should run for office. If you want to run for governor, run for governor."
"This is a really big issue."
"If you want to run for Congress, you had your chance," the governor repeated.
"Governor, I cannot tell you how many people come up to me. They're worried about this."
"Again, ladies and gentlemen," the governor said to the news reporters, "this is one of those where you see why he had his chance to run for Congress. People saw someone who would politically grandstand instead of addressing the issues of the day. I will address this issue as it makes its way through the United States Senate and before it gets to the President of the United States."
"We can make this political. It's very disrespectful to the people of Northeast Wisconsin," the county executive said.
"You're being disrespectful to all the people in the state of Wisconsin," the governor replied.
"If you were doing something more than pulling a political stunt--"
"No, I want a conversation with the governor."
"When's the last time you reached out and contacted us?"
"When's the last time your office reached out? You've come here every once in a while for a photo opp," Nelson said.
"Talk to Mayor right there. Talk to the mayor. Talk to all the other local officials," the governor suggested.
"I'm here today because the mayor of Appleton reached out to me about this subject -- made a point of it -- and it's one of those where, again, if you want to grandstand here--"
"This has obviously gotten under your skin," Nelson said.
"What's gotten under my skin, ladies and gentlemen, is the fact that someone decided to pull a political stunt and show up at an event about tourism--"
"I'm just asking questions. I'm asking a question that's on the minds of so many people."
"--celebrating a new exhibition center. And the simple answer is, we will stand for the best interests of the people of the state of Wisconsin just as we have done, which is something you were not able to accomplish during your time in the Legislature. Everyone living in poverty for the first time in our state's history is now covered under Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin--"
"So you are committing, you're committing--" Nelson begins.
"-- thanks to our leadership, and we will continue to push for plans that allow us to have the plan we enacted, not the one you left us with when you left the state Legislature."
"Not true," Nelson says.
"The facts are the facts. You can do a political fact check," the governor says.