Scott Walker’s Record on Safety Net & Social Services


Gov. Scott Walker’s political career has been marked by efforts to dismantle safety net programs or, if not dismantle, run them into the ground through mismanagement. In 2009, while Walker was Milwaukee County executive, the state intervened and took over the county’s public assistance programs due to years of mismanagement.

As Governor, he has proposed overhauling the state’s programs that provide care to the disabled and elderly, drawing outrage from disability advocates and groups such as AARP. Walker has also reduced eligibility for unemployment compensation, imposed additional requirements on recipients of public aid, and has proposed drug testing for these recipients in his most recent budget.

Wisconsin State Journal
Jenni Dye, research director for the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, said there are other strategies for preventing premarital pregnancy that Walker has opposed, such as providing contraception and reproductive health services to low-income women. “Poverty will be solved through structural change that gives people opportunities to succeed, not through Gov. Walker preaching about their individual choices,” Dye said.

Chippewa Herald
"He wants a talking point for the Republican presidential primary and he believes targeting those in need is a political advantage for him," said Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now. Ross suggested Walker is moving forward with the plan because it tested well among conservative voters, calling it "an attack on the people being victimized by (Walker's) failed economic policies." "He's dropping this into the GOP Legislature's lap with zero regard for the huge cost to the taxpayers of Wisconsin," Ross said.

Wisconsin State Journal

“Some recipients of public benefits, including Medicaid, unemployment and food stamps, would be required to undergo drug testing, under budget proposal announced Thursday by Gov. Scott Walker. The governor rolled out his “workforce readiness plan” Thursday ahead of the scheduled unveiling of his 2015-17 state budget proposal on Feb. 3. The proposals announced Thursday are aimed at providing more workers for “high-need” fields such as manufacturing, Walker said. Drug testing could affect tens of thousands of Wisconsinites receiving benefits; those failing drug tests would be offered free drug treatment and job training, the governor said...Drug testing the unemployed would apply only for people “for whom suitable work is only available in certain occupations,” Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said. Information on which jobs or job seekers would be subject to drug testing was not immediately available. About 40,000 people currently receive unemployment benefits. The budget also will include language seeking permission from the federal government to test all “able-bodied” adults without dependents on FoodShare, as well as all childless adults on Medicaid. Some broad-based programs in other states that tested all recipients have been halted after courts found them unconstitutional.

Capital Times
Democrats and liberal groups like One Wisconsin Now say Walker will use his budget to prove his presidential timber, by pushing policies like drug testing for welfare recipients.

One Wisconsin Now

 After signing into law drastic funding cuts to an Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction (AODA) program targeting youths, Gov. Scott Walker is now proposing mandatory drug testing for Wisconsinites as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits or participating in the FoodShare program. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross denounced the shortsighted and hypocritical actions of Gov. Walker on the issue.

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
Gov. Scott Walker praised a court ruling that requires voter identification at polls and offered details regarding new state budget proposals Tuesday during his visit to Lake Hallie. “The bottom line is we want it to be easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Walker said in remarks to the media after a grand opening ceremony for Mid-State International Trucks of Wisconsin. Walker said the state has removed the cost barriers to getting an identification card. “We’d want (a drug test), at minimum, upon entry into the system,” Walker said Tuesday. “The best way we can help them out is make them able to be employed.” Walker’s plans also call for a requirement that able-bodied people without children be eligible for unemployment benefits for no more than four years. In addition, he said he will push for continuation of a higher education tuition freeze he hopes to expand to include the state’s technical colleges.

Associated Press

Walker went on to say, however, that the “biggest, boldest reform” in the budget was new work requirements for people on food stamps. Able-bodied adults must spend at least 20 hours a week working or getting trained for a job, or they will be limited to three months of benefits over three years. Walker described this as a kindness. “We say it’s time to get the training, and the access to training so that when a job becomes available, you are ready to get in the game,” he said.

Shepherd Express

When Dennis Smith, Gov. Scott Walker's secretary of the state Department of Health Services (DHS), conducted a public outreach tour to explain how he wanted to cut $467 million from Medicaid programs, he didn't mention how many kids from low-income families would lose their health care coverage. Instead, Smith focused on "fairness," and asked that low-income families pay their "fair share" for their BadgerCare coverage. Smith didn't mention that 29,000 children—plus 34,000 adults—would likely lose their BadgerCare coverage if his "reforms" are implemented. Another 104,000 adults would be required to pay more toward their Medicaid coverage. Smith is asking the federal government for a waiver to implement his reform of Medicaid programs, something the Republican-led Legislature authorized him to do since it failed to fully fund the program in the state budget. If Smith doesn't receive the federal waiver by Dec. 31, the Legislature will allow him to drop more than 53,000 adult BadgerCare recipients from the program in July 2012. Although Smith's plan would reduce state spending by $90 million, it would also mean losing more than $135 million in federal funding for Medicaid, since the federal government pays about 60% of the Medicaid costs. In contrast, kicking 53,000 individuals from the program next year would result in a $60 million reduction in state spending and a loss of $90 million in federal money.

MSNBC

“There will be thousands and thousands of people across Wisconsin to lose their health care coverage,” One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross says. Liberal group One Wisconsin now is blasting the cuts, which include $100 million from Family Care and $54 million from Badger Care Plus, which helps the uninsured pay for health care coverage. “Health care costs rise as people aren’t able to get affordable care when they need it most,” Ross says.

Capital Times

“Attempts by the new Republican administration to largely privatize the state's food assistance program have been all but stopped in their tracks. The controversial plan, first proposed by Gov. Scott Walker in March, would have replaced county-level sites where residents can simultaneously apply for FoodShare and medical assistance with a limited number of centers across the state staffed by private workers. The move would have cost roughly 270 public workers their jobs. "The state right now is not in compliance (with federal law)," said Alan Shannon, a spokesman with the USDA's regional office in Chicago. "It's that simple." Federal guidelines prohibit private, or vendor, staff from deciding an applicant's eligibility for food assistance. Under the guidelines, private workers can only perform non-discretionary tasks, such as scanning documents. On Thursday, Ollice Holden, the Midwest administrator for the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service in Chicago, sent a letter to Dennis Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, telling him to correct the situation.”

One Wisconsin Now

Wisconsin Senate Republican are expected today to cut $56 million yearly from benefits for newly-unemployed Wisconsin workers just as figures show Wisconsin’s unemployment rate under Gov. Scott Walker has jumped higher than most states in the past two months. This vote comes after it was revealed Gov. Walker spent $500,000 for private legal counsel to the firm where Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus is partner.

2011 WI Act 32
On June 26, 2011, Walker signed the budget, which contained his proposal to cut $500 million from Medical Assistance programs. The proposal does not exclude any specific groups from receiving the program cuts, which means seniors and people with disabilities, who account for 20% of total Medicaid enrollment and 67% of total Medicaid spending, will likely be impacted by the cuts. At the end of January 2011, nearly 300,000 seniors and people with disabilities were enrolled in Medicaid-related programs. (2011 Assembly Bill 40, introduced 3/1/11; Senate Roll Call; Assembly Roll Call) (Disability Rights Wisconsin Fact Sheet) In addition, the budget contained Walker’s proposal to cut FamilyCare spending by more than $284 million over the biennium and freeze enrollment (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/20/2011). FamilyCare helps around 35,000 seniors and disabled stay independent at home and in their communities. (Disability Rights Wisconsin Fact Sheet).

2011 WI Act 32
Effective January 1, 2012, there will be a one-week waiting period before an unemployed worker can collect benefits. The inclusion of this change in the State Budget was made unilaterally by Republicans in the Legislature. Despite a veto request by all labor and management representatives on the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, Governor Walker signed this into law. For decades, the Advisory Council has made changes to UI benefits through a balanced, negotiated agreement involving employers and labor. The Department of Workforce Development estimates that workers will lose $41 million to $56 million in benefits due to the waiting period, depending on the unemployment rate. (2011 Assembly Bill 40, introduced 3/1/11; Senate Roll Call; Assembly Roll Call)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“With the number of poor clients in the state's welfare-to-work program surging, a series of changes by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislators would toughen the program guidelines and reverse revisions approved under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. The Walker changes also could help shrink the Wisconsin Works caseload, now approaching 15,000 families, with nearly 70% from Milwaukee County. That's the highest in more than a dozen years and more than double the number of clients W-2 had just two years ago. To critics, the changes could return the state to a time several years ago when caseloads plunged but complaints rose that potential clients were being unfairly dissuaded from applying for W-2. To Walker and backers of the changes, the latest moves would restore better accountability to the program and more clearly serve notice that W-2 is meant only as a temporary way station. Among changes included by Walker in his 2011-'13 state budget: Reinstatement of stricter time limits for participation; restrictions on time W-2 clients could spend in classrooms; making it easier to impose penalties on clients for program infractions; and cutting the top monthly cash payment by $20, to $653 a month.