There is a LOT to like in these proposals.
Wisconsin Works for Everyone, which will be included in Governor Walker’s budget proposal this coming February, seeks to extend work requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children who are receiving FoodShare, as well as to able-bodied adults receiving housing assistance. Just like Governor Thompson’s reforms, these initial changes would take place on a pilot basis.
Governor Walker’s full proposal will increase investment in job and skills training for the unemployed and underemployed, reduce barriers to work and increased earnings, and expand programs that incentivize employment. Where flexibility is needed, it will also aggressively seek federal waivers under a new incoming administration to encourage work and enhance self-sufficiency, including to pilot work requirements for working-age, able-bodied adults receiving housing vouchers.
As part of the proposal, job training programs will be significantly expanded for the unemployed or underemployed receiving FoodShare, the incarcerated and ex-offenders, and low-income noncustodial parents involved in the child support system.
Additionally, barriers to work will be addressed through reforms that reduce occupational licensing and eliminate the benefits cliff in child care subsidies, which can leave families financially worse off if they take a raise or work more hours. Barriers to work would also be eliminated for those enrolled in the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP), by removing the premium cliff as people transition into earning more income.
Wisconsin Works for Everyone will also expand programs that incentivize and reward employment by establishing an earned-income tax credit groups who often struggle to connect with work, including young adults aging out of foster care, as well as those who exit the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability program at age 18.
There are many details to work out, but the thrust of the proposals are clear. Walker wants to revamp our welfare programs to incent work, enable folks to get into the workforce, and smooth out the transition from welfare to work so that people don’t get hammered for improving their lives. I know the phrase is loaded, but this breathes “compassionate conservatism.”
It’s good to see Walker turning his considerable energy and talent back to Wisconsin after the distraction of the presidential campaign. There is so much more he can do for this state.