State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
Op Ed

Walker’s Work Rule Makes No Sense

Two-thirds of FoodShare recipients are blind, elderly, disabled or children and can’t work.

By - Feb 7th, 2018 11:05 am
Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

“With more people working in Wisconsin…, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines, we need everyone in the game,” stated Governor Walker, calling for a special session to take up bills he nicknamed, “Wisconsin Works for Everyone.”

The Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations Committee, of which I am a member, took up the special session bills in a recent public hearing. The 10 bills make substantial changes in eligibility for FoodShare (nutrition) or BadgerCare (medical care). Many of the bills limit assistance for families experiencing hard times.

To move things quickly, Senate and Assembly Committees met in a joint hearing – the only public hearing scheduled. Committee chairs took up all ten bills at the same time. At times, during the hearing, members were admonished by the Chair to ask only one question on all of the ten bills.

Lawmakers had scant information on the plans. Agency directors, who will carry out the new laws, knew very little about who would be affected. They could not answer questions about how much the state would pay to implement the new laws. No fiscal estimates were available at the hearing.

During the hearing, we learned about the hub of the Governor’s plan to get everyone working – the FoodShare Employment and Training program – commonly called “FSET.”

FSET is run by private companies. Curiously, our Assembly Chairman was a former employee of one of these companies.

Getting training and employment sounded like a great idea. I was eager to learn if the program really helped people. I wanted to know who would be participating under the new law.

About two-thirds of the people who get help from FoodShare cannot work. They are blind, elderly, disabled or children. Of the one-third left, nearly half are already working. Most folks are working part-time, low wage jobs. They want more hours, but can’t get them.

We heard about problems with the private contractors, including contractors that received incentives to get people into low-wage work, not training. In one case, a woman’s work experience was in fast food. She wanted to obtain her high school diploma, but the contractor sent her to another low-wage fast food job, without a chance to get back in school.

From her perspective, the program was a failure. From the state’s perspective, with her low wages, she would continue on FoodShare. Her life was not better. The state did not have fewer people on FoodShare. But the private contractors got paid.

I began to wonder, who’s working here and at what cost to taxpayers? Do we know if this program works? Has it been evaluated?

In brief, I learned that Wisconsin moved to a voluntary FSET program in 2008. In 2013, lawmakers asked for a yearly evaluation of the program. Walker vetoed the evaluations. In 2015, money was budgeted for a program evaluation. However, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, by May 2017, no evaluation was completed. When I asked where was the $850,000 budgeted for evaluation, no one could answer the question.

Why wouldn’t the state want to know if the program is working? When I finally obtained the fiscal estimates, I began to see a very different story of who works and who pays.

If all 10 special session bills are enacted, the implementation and ongoing costs will be nearly $240 million in the next budget. In eight of the 10 bills, the state will pay a significant amount of new money to outside contractors. For example, mandatory FSET participation and incentive payments would add almost $50 million for the FSET contractors.

Many of the bills will allow the contractor to collect public money for program changes not currently allowed under federal law. The state will seek special permission from the Trump administration to make the changes.

Now, I see a new story. Private contractors stand to gain. Governor Walker has new initiatives he can brag about across the state. New employees will work for the now wealthier contractors.

But is Wisconsin Working for Everyone who is hungry, in need of health care, or child care – not so much. All of the organizations focused on helping the working poor testified against the bills.

Please tell your Legislators to Vote No!

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, is a member of the Wisconsin state Senate.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

4 thoughts on “Op Ed: Walker’s Work Rule Makes No Sense”

  1. Rich says:

    Can you get on TV to share this? This is the kind of meat that the public needs to see. Look past the headlines and the hate for fellow humans…

  2. Terry says:

    Career Politician Scott Walker is the BIGGEST Big Government moocher in the state. He has been sucking off the government dole for DECADES! Why is he not drug tested for food or housing? Why aren’t any of these republican charlatans in Wisconsin? They are living high on the hog off of OUR tax dollars! Taxpayer’s money is a sacred trust. We need and deserve to know if Scott Waljer and repubicans are all druggies? Are they all drunkards? Who knows?? They won’t pee in a cup to prove it one way or the other. Why not? What are they hiding? It’s high time these Big Government republican moochers pee in a cup to prove to taxpayers that we aren’t subsidizing a bunch of dopers and drunks. If they don’t agree…

    What do they have to hide??

    Dump Walker 2018

  3. Rita says:

    Terry Gow should certainly be taking regular drug tests. Every other month. Hair samples. All his executives. Cuz that is an extreme amount of welfare for a very risky proposition. Thanks to Kathleen Vinehout for once again, telling it like it is. Profits for political favors and splitting the people against each other. These are the two takeaways we see from the GOP in this state over and over and over…..

  4. Terry says:

    Maybe Career Politician Scott Walker and republican’s rules “don’t make sense” because they are all on drugs or are drunkards? We don’t know for sure because they refuse to pee in a cup to prove it to taxpayers (aka their bosses). But one thing is for sure, they sure act like they are drugged up or drunk. Walker and republicans have been living high on the hog off of taxpayers’ money for years while blaming the poor, disadvantaged, the meek and powerless. Why won’t they urinate for us to prove they aren’t all on drugs or drunk? Honestly,
    What do they have to hide??

    Dump Walker 2018

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