By WCCO-TV Staff

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers plans to renew efforts designed to lower prescription drug costs, putting forward a proposal in his state budget that the Republican-controlled Legislature previously rejected.

The plans were unveiled Wednesday, less than two weeks before the Democratic governor was to release his two-year spending plan to the Legislature. Republicans will spend the next several months rewriting the proposal before passing something, likely in June or July.

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Evers’ budget, like it did two years ago, will include many measures that will please his Democratic base but that Republicans will summarily reject. Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday sent Evers a letter urging him to submit a plan that doesn’t raises taxes, include divisive policy or “excessive spending.”

The Joint Finance Committee is the first stop for Evers’ budget. Most of the significant changes to his plan are made there before the Legislature votes on it.

Sen. Howard Marklein, one of the committee co-chairs, had no comment on the governor’s prescription drug plan, his spokeswoman Katy Prange said. Rep. Mark Born, the other co-chair, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Evers’ prescription drug plan largely follows recommendations of a task force he created in 2019 that put forward ways to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, expand access to needed medications and increase transparency in the supply chain.

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“No Wisconsinite should have to choose between paying their bills and affording their prescription medication,” Evers said in a statement Wednesday. “Picking up your prescription shouldn’t break the bank, but we know too many Wisconsinites continue to struggle to afford their medications. That’s just not right.”

A few of the ideas were rejected two years ago by the Legislature. That includes eliminating prescription drug copayments for low-income people in the state’s BadgerCare Medicaid program and allowing the state to lower the cost of prescription drugs by importing less expensive alternatives.

Evers’ plan would also:

  • Create a review board to establish prescription drug spending targets for public sector entities and put limits on prices.
  • Increase funding for free and charitable clinics by $4 million over two years.
  • Create a prescription drug purchasing entity that would allow state and local collaboration to buy drugs in bulk to save money.
  • Establish a $50 copay cap on insulin.
  • Create a new Office of Prescription Drug Affordability to oversee and regulate the pharmaceutical supply chain and serve as a watchdog for consumers.
  • Create a pilot program aimed at lowering the cost of diabetes medication.

Evers has previously announced that his budget will include $200 million for expansion and improvement of internet broadband services across the state. He’s expected to release other details of the budget in advance of its Feb. 16 release.

The state’s revenue forecast improved last week, giving Evers and lawmakers more room for new spending, tax cuts or savings. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said state tax collections would be nearly $1.3 billion more by mid-2023 than previously projected in November.

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