As lawmakers look to advance a package of special session bills that would make sweeping changes to the state’s welfare programs, Governor Scott Walker hit the road Friday with a former champion of welfare reform to help build support for the proposals.
Walker made stops across the state with former Governor Tommy Thompson, as the two talked about the importance of helping families transition off of public assistance and into the workforce. He wants lawmakers approve the package, which includes tougher work requirements and additional drug testing for welfare recipients.
“What we’re trying to do is help everyone in the state who wants a job to not just find a job, but a career…a career that can support themselves and their families,” Walker said.
Thompson, who signed the state’s Wisconsin Works welfare overhaul in 1996, noted the state’s record low unemployment rate, which was at 3.0% in December, as a sign that there are jobs out there for people. “Take people off of welfare, take people that are under-insured, take people that are not trained, train them, and give them a decent job,” he said.
Democrats have criticized the package of bills as an election year effort to boost Republican support, and argue many of the proposals will deprive people of access to needed services and support systems. Advocates for the poor have also made the case that the package falls short of addressing the real barriers to employment many people face, such as access to affordable child care.
A legislative committee is expected to vote on the package of bills next week, with action by the full Legislature likely to come later this month.
Walker not interested in Republican memo
While national political attention turned Friday to the release of a classified Republican memo accusing high-ranking FBI and Department of Justice officials of promoting bias against President Donald Trump in an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Walker said he’s not interested in the debate over its release or what it has to say. “Haven’t read it, haven’t looked at it, and I gotta tell you I probably won’t,” Walker told reporters.
The governor said the reason why is because he’s busy working to promote the agenda he laid out in his State of the State address last month. “We’ve got enough to do here in Wisconsin. I’ll leave that up to the people we elect to represent us in the federal government.”
Affiliate WTAQ contributed to this report.