MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday touted his new plan to give college graduates $5,000 over five years if they promise to stay in Wisconsin, while a Democratic group launched an attack ad featuring a woman with breast cancer who says Walker doesn’t care about families like hers.
Walker faces Democrat Tony Evers, the state schools chief, in the November election. Walker’s ad on his college credit plan is his 17th of the race. A group aligned with the Democratic Governors Association said its spot attacking Walker on health care was part of a new seven-figure buy.
In Walker’s ad, he stands in front of a classroom with what appears to be college students. He speaks about the $5,000 in refundable tax credits, which he wants to make available to graduates from a University of Wisconsin System school or state technical college. The money would be available spread over five years for graduates who remain and work in Wisconsin. The $5,000 credit would be available both to students who graduate with no college debt and those who have debt.
Walker has also called for extending for another four years the UW tuition freeze that has been in place the past six years.
Walker’s proposals would have to be approved by the Legislature before taking effect.
Democrats have long accused Walker of not doing enough to address skyrocketing student loan debt. Instead of advocating for allowing students to refinance their loans at lower rates, Walker has emphasized the tuition freeze and now the $5,000 credit.
Evers’ spokesman Sam Lau called Walker’s plan “too little, too late” and said he has had eight years to address the student loan problem but failed to do so. Evers supports a plan that would allow student loans to be refinanced at a lower rate and give a tax break for every student loan holder, not just those who meet certain criteria like Walker’s plan.
The ad from A Stronger Wisconsin, the Democratic Governors Association group, features a woman with breast cancer who says that if Walker takes away protections for people with pre-existing conditions she won’t be able to afford live-saving treatments.
Walker has been a longtime proponent of repealing the federal health care law, also known as “Obamacare,” that provides protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Public opinion polls have shown that to be one of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Walker in February signed off on Wisconsin’s Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel joining a multi-state federal lawsuit that attempts to suspend the law, along with its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
The states are asking the federal judge in Texas hearing the case that, at the very least, he strike down parts of the law that prohibit health insurance companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions or charging them higher rates.
While Walker is pushing to repeal the national law, this year he called on the Legislature to pass a bill guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. His campaign pointed to that proposal, which did not pass, as an indicator of his support for protecting those with pre-existing conditions even while Wisconsin pursues a lawsuit that would do away with that part of the federal law.
Walker spokesman Austin Altenburg said the new ad was a “false attack” and Evers should denounce it.