By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Board has approved putting two advisory referendum questions on the ballot for the November election.
The first of the advisory questions will ask voters to give their opinion on whether the governor and the state legislature should accept federal funding to expand BadgerCare to cover people with an income of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
The second question will ask voters to give their opinion on whether the United States Constitution should be amended to state that only human beings are endowed with constitutional rights and that money is not speech.
The Dunn County Board approved the advisory referendum questions at the June 18 meeting.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, five people spoke in favor of amending the United States Constitution.
A desire to amend the constitution declaring that only human beings have constitutional rights and that money is not speech stems from the 2010 United States Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, which equates money with speech and allows corporations to give unlimited amounts of money for political purposes.
The Supreme Court “has legalized bribery,” said Rick Jurmain of Eau Claire.
Jurmain said that allowing corporations to give unlimited amounts of money for political purposes makes them “vastly more powerful than ‘we the people.’”
If the corporations “are not reigned in, they will own our government from federal to local,” Jurmain said.
Very few individuals can match corporate donations, said Lorene Vedder of Menomonie.
If corporations are granted the same rights as individuals, and the United States allows an individual to be put to death for killing someone, then corporations should cease to exist when they are responsible for killing someone, such as General Motors and the problem with the ignition switches, said Jan Pesek-Herriges of Menomonie.
Jim Anderson, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said he would vote against placing the advisory referendum question on the ballot.
By approving the referendum question, the Dunn County Board appears to be partisan, and the county board is not a partisan body, Anderson said.
The question should be debated by the citizens of Dunn County, but it should not be a referendum question, he said.
Sarah Kennedy, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said the citizens of Dunn County “have to be allowed to voice their opinion.”
Todd Welch, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said he would vote against placing the question on the ballot because he is not a big fan of referendum questions.
In addition, the wording of the referendum question could lead people to believe that it is true that money is not speech, and then the county board would be leading the public to answer the question the way county board members wanted it answered, Welch said.
The Dunn County Board approved the referendum question pertaining to amending the U.S. Constitution on a voice vote, with several supervisors voting no, including Anderson and Welch.
The advisory referendum question that will be on November ballot will read: “Shall the Constitution of the United States of America be amended to state that: 1. Only human beings, not corporations, unions, non-profits or similar associations, are endowed with constitutional rights, and; 2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”
The Dunn County Board also approved an advisory referendum question advising the governor and state legislature to accept federal funding for expanding Medicaid/BadgerCare to cover people with an income of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
Medicaid currently is covered by 60 percent federal funding and 40 percent state funding.
The federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs of expanding Medicaid coverage for four years and 90 percent after that to help in covering 235,000 adults currently not covered.
According to information included with the resolution, Wisconsin would save $495 million from the Medicaid/BadgerCare expansion over the next eight years.
Tom Quinn, county board supervisor from Downing, said that Wisconsin is a “net loser” because it sends more money to the federal government than it receives from the federal government.
Supervisor Welch said he was not in favor of expanding BadgerCare because it would increase the debt for the federal government and that increasing the federal debt would hurt poor people more than expanding BadgerCare would help them.
Dunn County residents need a chance to discuss the issue, said Donald Kuether, county board supervisor from Menomonie.
As the years go by, society will still have to take care of people, so the cost will be there anyway, he said.
Or at least, the cost will be there anyway unless society decides we should let people die, Kuether said.
“We are not voting up or down (on the issue). We are asking the folks of Dunn County for their opinion,” said Bob Walter, county board supervisor from Menomonie.
The Dunn County Board approved placing the referendum question on the November ballot with a voice vote.
Several supervisors voted against the motion.
Anderson, Welch and Vaughn Hedlund, county board supervisor from Boyceville, said they wanted it reflected in the minutes that they had voted against the motion.
Here is the advisory referendum question as it will appear on the ballot: “Shall the Governor and Legislature accept federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid/BadgerCare in Wisconsin to cover persons up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level to ensure that additional thousands of Wisconsin Citizens have access to quality and affordable health coverage?”
The cost for adding the two advisory referendum questions to the November ballot will be approximately $6,300.
Dunn County has an annual budget of about $70 million.