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.
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.”
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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.
“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.”