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Tony Evers

Tony Evers in downtown Madison Friday.

Democratic candidate for governor Tony Evers said Friday he would like to make BadgerCare available to all Wisconsin residents by the end of his first term, although he did not commit to doing so.

Evers fielded questions from reporters after encouraging Madison voters to casts their ballots early, with a focus on young voters. 

"At some point in time the public option has to be there," Evers told reporters when asked about his plans for health care coverage.

Democratic lawmakers have previously proposed allowing all Wisconsinites to buy into BadgerCare, the state's health care coverage program for low-income Wisconsin residents. 

A "BadgerCare for All" bill, introduced last year by Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, and Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, would have made BadgerCare a public option available to anyone in Wisconsin through the federal health insurance exchange. Similar proposals have been introduced at the federal level, for Medicare, with support from Democrats. 

BadgerCare was created under Republican former Gov. Tommy Thomson as a way to give health care coverage to low-income Wisconsin residents who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

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Evers told reporters on Friday he's not sure the state would be ready to implement a public option program by the 2019-21 state budget, but he would "hope" to do so by the end of his first term, if elected.

“Last time Democrats tried this kind of far-left health care scheme, they ended up pushing the largest tax increase in Wisconsin history,” said Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Alec Zimmerman, referencing a proposal introduced about a decade ago by Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout. “That’s the difference between Scott Walker and Tony Evers — Walker’s leadership has lowered the tax burden while also enacting Wisconsin-based reforms that have covered everyone under poverty and will bring premiums down in 2019. Tony Evers continues to show the kind of failed leadership that will only result in higher taxes and more broken promises.”

Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction, is challenging Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Nov. 6.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.