The merits of today's decision in Wisconsin Medical Society v. Morgan requires too much legal inside baseball for a general interest blog. The question was, essentially, whether the legislature, having said that the assessments paid by health care providers into the patient compensation fund will be held irrevocably in trust and used only for purposes of the fund and for no other purpose, can retroactively change the rules and grab the money for another reason. The immediate issue was whether this gave the providers a "property interest" in the fund that cannot be taken without just compensation.
There are, I think, doctrinal and policy reasons, based in the enacting statute and its amendments, to say that it did. I think the five justice majority got it right, although I don't think that the dissent had a few points to make.
A couple of things interest me. First, would the consequence of failing to overturn the legislative action been to justify a tax imposed only on health care providers for purpose of the general treasury. Is that OK?
Second, I am interested in the contrast between the dissent of the Chief Justice and Justice Bradley in Morgan and Justice Butler's majority opinion in Doyle v. Dairyland Greyhound Park in which both justices joined. In this case, they would have permitted the legislature to revoke an explicit legislative promise to use funds only for a specified purpose. In Doyle, they held that interpretation of a constitutional amendment to limit a right to renew gambling compacts to which neither party had any contractual right would violate the contracts clause. I am not claiming that the two opinions are irreconcilable but they suggest a tension that must be reconciled.
But these questions probably belong in another forum.
On a less esoteric level, the decision will most certainly make the legislature more skittish about raiding similar funds. And that may require a tad more honesty in the budgeting process. This would be a good thing.
And, although this foolishness, was enacted with a few GOP defections from a Republican controlled Assembly, it's going to be seen as a Doyle manipulation that came up short. Now we have another $ 200 million to make up. It will resonate because it is consistent with the public perception of the Governor. It will hurt the Dems in November.