MADISON – When Wisconsin’s leaders pushed President Donald Trump to make sure COVID-19 testing continued in the state, one remained conspicuously silent.
Scott Fitzgerald, the pro-Trump state Senate majority leader seeking a seat in Congress, didn’t sign onto a letter from other legislative leaders seeking federal aid.
Trump on Monday extended the federal emergency declaration, which allows the National Guard to continue testing, but said Wisconsin and most other states would have to begin paying for 25% of the cost. For months, the federal government has been picking up the full cost.
The change in funding will mean Wisconsin will have to pay about $4 million through the end of the year, according to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Evers had urged Trump to continue the emergency designation, as did top Wisconsin lawmakers, including Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester.
But Fitzgerald, of Juneau, didn’t sign onto the July 22 letter Vos sent to Trump along with the Legislature’s Democratic leaders, Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley of Mason and Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh.
An aide to Fitzgerald didn’t say why the senator didn’t sign the letter.
“Senator Fitzgerald fully supports the Wisconsin National Guard’s mission as well as the president’s decision to extend the funding to Wisconsin,” Fitzgerald spokesman Alec Zimmerman said by email.
Zimmerman didn’t answer whether Fitzgerald wanted the state to begin picking up some of the costs, as Trump’s extension requires.
Trump told Texas and Florida they did not have to chip in for the cost of using the National Guard in their states. But Wisconsin and every other state will have to start contributing starting Aug. 21.
Fitzgerald faces Cliff DeTemple in Tuesday’s Republican primary. A spokeswoman for DeTemple did not say whether he wanted the federal government to pay all of the testing costs.
Whoever wins the primary will face Democrat Tom Palzewicz in November for the seat in Congress that longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is giving up.
Palzewicz said he wanted to see the federal government cover testing.
“We continue to see a high level of cases here in Wisconsin and our ability to test is at risk without these funds,” he said in a statement. “We need all of our leadership to sign on and not let political differences get in the way.”
Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.