Wis. Candidates for Governor Get One Last Swipe in Final Debate

October 23, 2006

Gov. Jim Doyle pushed his proposal to give tax deductions for health insurance premiums. Mark Green said health savings accounts can help solve the problem of rising health care costs.

But the candidates mixed in jabs at each other throughout their third and final debate before the Nov. 7 election for governor.

Green, a Republican congressman from Green Bay, said that during the Democratic incumbent’s four years in office, the state’s number of people without health insurance had gone up, while health care costs have risen faster than the national average.

“We cannot keep going along on this path,” he said.

Green summarized his own plan as providing multiple choices for families in shaping their health care, encouraging wellness programs and offering a tax credit for long-term care insurance, and he also advocated health savings accounts as a way for people to save money on coverage.

Doyle disputed Green’s comments, saying Wisconsin’s uninsured rate, for example, has grown at a much smaller rate than the exploding national rate.

“Health savings accounts are fine, but they currently take care of about 1 percent of the population,” he said. “That’s what he has been advocating.

“I am advocating that everybody in the state of Wisconsin be able to deduct every bit of their health insurance premiums,” Doyle said, adding that it would benefit 650,000 individuals and families in Wisconsin.

Doyle also blamed a lack of action on the national level on health care.

“I think we all wish we had a president and Congress that spent a little bit of time on health care instead of all of the other things they’ve dealt, or not dealt with, in recent years,” Doyle said. “We really do need a major federal approach to this.”

That brought a rebuke from Green.

“You’ve already heard it tonight _ Governor Doyle pointing fingers at everybody else. He’s blaming Congress. He’s blaming the president. You’re going to hear him blame Republicans, blame the Legislature.

“Folks, he’s the governor of the state, he’s the CEO, he’s the leader of the state,” he said. “Pretty clearly what Governor Doyle has been offering isn’t working.”

Doyle, who hopes to become the first Democrat re-elected Wisconsin governor in 32 years, has maintained a lead in the polls. One released early this month showed him up by 6 points, while another put out Thursday showed him up by 13 points. Green’s campaign dismissed those results.

With just 18 days until the election, time was running out for Green to close the gap.

Doyle has built his campaign around his management of the state’s budget, which he balanced without raising taxes, and his support of stem cell research.

Green argues that Doyle has not balanced the budget given that the state faces an estimated $1.6 billion in bills that must be paid over the next two years. He says Wisconsin’s tax burden is too high and Doyle has not done enough to attract new jobs to the state.

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