A Republican plan to overhaul Wisconsin’s outdated unemployment insurance computer system will be taken up by the state Senate on Thursday, after clearing the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday
JFC co-chair, Representative Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) made a point of tagging Governor Tony Evers for thousands of people not receiving their benefits during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The citizens of Wisconsin needed the governor to show up and lead during a time of crisis,” Born said during Wednesday’s public hearing. “Unfortunately the failures with the unemployment system, and getting people the benefits they so desperately needed is one of many and probably most significant examples we’ve seen of a lack of leadership and management from this administration.”
Once again, Republicans in the Legislature are taking the lead. @GovEvers DOES NOT need legislative approval to initiate an UI IT system upgrade. But, here we are, directing the Governor and his agencies to do the job they refuse to do. pic.twitter.com/hfw3hURRG7
— Rep. Mark Born (@repborn) February 17, 2021
“This is simply not acceptable, and the system must be fixed,” JFC co-chair Senator Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) said. “I’m not here to cast blame or point fingers, I’m here to ask you to help me fix the problem. We have a responsibility to do better, and get the system fixed.”
Department of Workforce Development interim Secretary Amy Pechacek told the budget panel that the agency is ready to begin work on an upgrade. “We’ve continued our research, so whatever step we need to get that funding to get that funding dedicated to this project, and the support to continue the funding moving forward, we are committed to do what it takes to get this going.”
The plan was approved on a 15-0 vote as members from both parties agreed the issues must be fixed.
The Evers administration would have to get permission from the Legislature’s budget committee to obtain funding for the project, which could cost $80 million or more. It also includes language to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. An Evers spokesperson would not say whether the governor supported the proposal.