My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:
The economy in Wisconsin is booming and employment is at an all-time high. Data released by the Department of Workforce Development last week showed that December’s 3% unemployment is tied for the lowest unemployment rate on record and the number of people employed is at an historic high. Wisconsin is enjoying economic full employment. If you want a job in Wisconsin, you can have one.
In light of the economic boon in the state, Governor Scott Walker has called a special session of the legislature to pass a package of welfare reform legislation dubbed Wisconsin Works for Everyone. The legislation is authored by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senator Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield). Governor Walker says the reform legislation will, “remove barriers to work and make it easier to get a job, while making sure public assistance is available to those who truly need it.”
Part of what makes such legislation possible are new rules regarding Medicaid recently issued by the Federal government under President Trump. In the past, Medicaid eligibility has been based almost completely based on a person’s income. The Trump Administration has informed states that they can introduce requirements that most people receiving Medicaid either work or look for work.
There are 10 principal parts of the Wisconsin Works for Everyone welfare reform package. They will also undoubtedly be revised, expended, trimmed, and otherwise tweaked as they go through the legislative process. Here are a few of the key elements of the package to start the conversation.
■ Expand work requirements for recipients of Wisconsin’s FoodShare Employment and Training program from 20 hours to 30 hours for more people. The bill would require people to treat both able-bodied adults with dependents and able-bodied adults without dependents the same by requiring 30 hours of work instead of 20.
■ Launch a pilot program to allow recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit can receive payments throughout the year instead of waiting until they file their taxes to receiveit in a lump sum. This will put more money in the pockets of low-income people throughout the year as they work. Ifsuccessful, the pilot program will be expanded to all EITC recipients.
■ Establish an asset test related to a primary residence. Under this bill, if a person owns a home (excluding farm land) that is worth more than 200 percent of the statewide median value home ($321,000), they would not be eligible for W-2, Wisconsin Shares, or Foodshare. This bill would also add a $20,000 limit on the total equity value of a non-work related vehicles. Simply put, if a person has a nice home and drives nice vehicles, the taxpayers should not be giving them welfare.
■ Prohibit able-bodied parents who refuse to cooperate with determining paternity of a child or refuse to pay child support from receiving Medicaid.
■ Require employment screening and drug testing for people who use public housing and provide employability plans and drug treatment as needed.
■ Require photo identification for people who receive FoodShare.
There is a role for the taxpayers to play in supporting people who are unable to support themselves, but it is offensive for taxpayers to be forced to support people who are able to support themselves. The Wisconsin Works for Everyone reforms are designed to push able-bodied adults into the workforce and provide training and treatment for those who need it.
There is a dignity in work that cannot be replaced by an entitlement. Moreover, at this moment in time, Wisconsin is flush with jobs of all skill levels and needs everyone possible to find a job and work hard.