Governor Scott Walker made a three city tour on Tuesday to sign nine bills into law that aim to reform the state’s welfare system.
“I’ve said repeatedly that public assistance should be like a trampoline and less like a hammock,” said Walker, adding that with the state’s unemployment rate hovering near 3% that the state can’t afford to have anyone on the sideline. “What we are doing is getting people the skills and the education they need to not just have jobs but have careers to support themselves and their families.”
The battery of bills works to develop plans for those on housing assistance to get job skills training, requires child support compliance for those receiving Medicaid, and requires able-bodied adults to complete workforce training in order to be eligible for the FoodShare program.
Another controversial aspect of the plan requires anyone receiving public assistance to pass a drug test, which Walker says is no different than applying for a job. “It’s unbelievable. I’ll hear employers say once a week, sometimes once a day, that they have five open spots open but I need people with basic employability skills and who can pass a drug test. I’ll put out a notice, I’ll have people come in, and once they find out about the drug test a whole bunch just won’t even show up for the next step.”
Walker adds what sets the Wisconsin measure apart from other states is the rehab part of the plan. “Unlike other states who put in punitive requirements, we actually have rehab funding available. Our goal is to get people back up on their feet again and in the workforce no matter what their circumstances are.”
A number of other measures were in that package. One new law would explore a program to turn the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit into a monthly annuity rather than a lump sum number on a tax return. Another bill will ask the federal government for permission to create a health savings account program for the BadgerCare program.