Wisconsin continues to be a national innovator when it comes to welfare reform. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will soon add his signature to a host of nine bills that build on previous reforms aimed at helping to move more Wisconsinites from government dependency to self-sufficiency.
The “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” reform initiative, which has been spearheaded by Walker since he first announced the plan more than a year ago, mimics similar reforms passed by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). Throughout Thompson’s tenure (1987–2001), 800,000 net jobs were created in Wisconsin, and there was a 93 percent reduction in the state’s welfare rolls. Thompson’s reforms were so successful that they were later used by President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans in their revamp of welfare at the national level.
One of the changes the bills would institute is an adjustment to the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. If approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the state would require able-bodied food stamp recipients to work or be enrolled in a job training program for at least 30 hours per week, an increase of 10 hours per week compared to current law.
In a USDA press release, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue voiced his support for SNAP innovation to promote work and self-sufficiency. “Long-term dependency has never been part of the American dream. USDA’s goal is to move individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty. Everyone who receives SNAP deserves an opportunity to become self-sufficient and build a productive, independent life.”
Another key part of the is Medicaid reform. The state submitted a Section 1115 demonstration waiver in June 2017 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. If approved by the federal government, the waiver would lead to the creation of monthly premiums and copayments for emergency department visits, subject recipients to drug screenings and offer treatment to those who test positive, and limit benefits to 48 months for those not meeting the state’s work requirements.
The Heartland Institute endorses many of the Badger State’s reform measures and has been encouraging Wisconsin to make additional changes for years. In January, John Nothdurft, director of government relations, testified in support of the reform bills in a Wisconsin joint committee hearing. Heartland President Tim Huelskamp cited Heartland’s assistance in moving these bills forward in a recent press release: “Congratulations to Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature for passing these long-overdue welfare reforms. The Heartland Institute was pleased to assist in their development and plans to promote the adoption of these in the other 49 states.”
Wisconsin has long been a leader in welfare reform. In 2015, Wisconsin was given an “A” grade in Heartland’s Welfare Reform Report Card, and the additional changes offered as part of the Wisconsin Works for Everyone plan would help it remain one of the most innovative and reform-minded states in the country.
In the Ten State Solutions to Emerging Issues booklet, experts at The Heartland Institute provide lawmakers interested in fixing their welfare programs with several key policy reforms that have been proven to improve state budgets and help people break the government-created cycle of dependency and poverty. Solutions include work requirements, consolidating redundant agencies, eliminating fraud and abuse, and applying for 1115 demonstration waivers to give states flexibility in administering Medicaid.
What We’re Working On
Study Shows Nearly Half of Florida’s ESA Parents Are Using Funds to Customize Their Child’s Education
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a new study from EdChoice, titled Personalizing Education: How Florida Families Use Education Savings Accounts. The study reveals 42 percent of families participating in Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship Program used their ESA funds to customize their child’s education during the 2015–16 school year. These findings are important because they show parents are using the Gardiner ESA as intended, utilizing a variety of options to come up with an educational program that meets the unique educational needs of their children.
Energy & Environment
EPA Finds Greenhouse-Gas Emissions Continue to Decline While Oil, Natural Gas Production Increase
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about EPA’s draft 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI), which revealed total gross greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) in the United States decreased by 2 percent between 2015 and 2016. In 2007, GHG emissions were 15.6 percent above 1990 levels, which is the GHGI baseline. Now, GHG emissions are just 2.6 percent above 1990 levels, 11.6 percent below 2005 levels. The report also goes on to note combined methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems have declined by 1.5 percent from 2015 to 2016, and by a total of 14.7 percent since 1990. From natural gas systems alone, the decrease in methane emissions is 16.3 percent since 1990.
Trump Administration Throws Lifeline to Obamacare Victims
State Government Relations Manager Charlie Katebi examines a new proposal by the Trump administration to expand access to affordable health plans known as short-term insurance in a recent column in The Hill. Katebi wrote, “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed new rules to offer consumers an expanded array of affordable health coverage options.The newly proposed rules would extend the allowable duration of health plans known as short-term insurance from three months to 12 months. … The vast majority of the customers lining up to buy these new policies will likely be among the tens of millions of individuals who cannot afford Obamacare’s sky-high premiums and are currently uninsured.”
Budget & Tax
Washington State Seeks to Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans discusses a positive development in Washington State regarding civil asset forfeiture. Currently, Washington has a “D-” grade on its civil asset forfeiture laws, as analyzed by the Institute for Justice. Three bills being considered in the state’s legislature would raise the standard of proof required for seizure, deposit proceeds from seized property into a public education fund, and place the burden of proof on the seizing agency. Glans concluded, “Assets should be seized only for criminal reasons, and law enforcement should not have incentives to seize any more property than is necessary and justified. Although incorporating these reforms into one bill would be preferable, each of these bills would take a positive step toward limiting the government’s incentive to seize.”
From Our Free-Market Friends
City Pension Data Update
Truth in Accounting, a government finance watchdog group, has updated its municipal pension database that contains important information about the largest public pension systems in the country. According to Truth in Accounting, the worst funded pension plans in the three largest cities are the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund (57 percent funded), Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (68 percent funded), and Chicago Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (19 percent funded).
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