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Walker to unveil welfare reform plan

By   /   January 22, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

MADISON, Wis. – Gov. Scott Walker is scheduled to make a major announcement on welfare reform Monday.

The Republican governor will travel to Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire and Madison. He will be joined in Madison by welfare reform pioneer, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The day begins at 9:30 a.m. at ResCare Workforce Services in Milwaukee. Next up, the Brown County Offices in Green Bay at 11:30 a.m., followed by the Eau Claire State Office Building at 1:50 p.m. and the State Capitol at 3:55 p.m.

Walker’s press office did not provide further details.

Photo by WEAU

WELFARE REFORMERS: Gov. Scott Walker will be joined by former Gov. Tommy Thompson Monday for an announcement on welfare reform.

In his state of the state address earlier this month, Walker called on Wisconsin again to be a leader in welfare reform, continuing the work that Thompson began a generation ago.

“Rewarding work will be our top priority,” Walker said. “Here in Wisconsin, we are willing to help people who are down and out. But public assistance should be a trampoline, not a hammock.”

RELATED: Walker: Workforce development, welfare reform top priorities

The success of Thompson’s Welfare to Work, or W2, initiative in the 1990s helped drive sweeping welfare reform across the country. Signed in 1996, the reform law ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and replaced it with a program based on work.

Lawrence Mead, professor of Politics at New York University, has described Thompson as the “crucial, most important single leader” in welfare reform.

“Wisconsin took the idea to extremes not seen anywhere else in the country,” Mead told a Manhattan Institute conference on welfare reform in 2004. “Wisconsin Works, the eventual system that it implemented, is the most radical reform in the country…and is a triumph of government.”

Walker, too, has led reforms of public assistance programs. In 2015, the state implemented work and training requirements for participants of FoodShare, Wisconsin’s food stamp program.

A report in August by the MacIver Institute, a Madison-based free-market think tank, found wages and hours worked had increased for participants in the FoodShare Employment Training program.

“More than 14,400 people have found jobs since April 2015, according to new data from Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services,” according to MacIver’s report.

Program critics like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin have characterized the program as an attack on the poor.

“We are concerned that the state’s recent changes in FoodShare eligibility and the underperforming FoodShare Employment and Training program are moving vulnerable Wisconsinites deeper into poverty rather than lifting them up,” the Madison Democrat wrote in a letter to the governor in March.

Walker fired back at an April press conference in Eau Claire.

“Some people in Washington have mistakenly pointed to this program and said that we are cutting people off it they don’t work. That’s not true,” Walker said. “We either require employment of up to 80 hours per month, or enrollment in our training programs, or a mixture of both. The idea being we can find a job for anybody in the state if they get the job skills and they stay committed to the program.”

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M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.