Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis.

The following is a response from Ken Taylor, executive director of Kids Forward, on Gov. Scott Walker’s call for a special session on welfare reform.

Kids Forward shares the goals of expanding the Wisconsin workforce and helping more Wisconsinites become self-sufficient, but we strongly believe that there are better ways to accomplish those goals than the proposals contained in Gov. Walker’s call for a special session.

The starting point for Kids Forward is a thorough analysis of true barriers to work, and having policy proposals that actually address those barriers.

The governor’s proposals fall short of that standard.

Instead, his proposals would hurt programs like FoodShare and housing assistance that support a person’s ability to work, and they would be punitive for low-income parents who face barriers to work, such as lack of affordable child care and limited transportation options, neither of which are addressed in this proposal.

If state policymakers are genuinely interested in expanding the workforce and helping low-income families, they should develop a bipartisan agenda that improves education and removes barriers to work. For example, Wisconsin should expand access to affordable child care and stop suspending driver’s licenses of low-income people who are unable to pay municipal fines.

While there are some components of the plan that have potential for positive impact, a number of the recommendations do not have any link to removing barriers to work. For example, requiring photo IDs for Food Share will be cumbersome and costly and won’t help anyone get a job.

In addition, most of the proposed measures have significant administrative costs, and that funding could be used much more effectively for investments in things like education and training that will do far more to expand and enhance the Wisconsin workforce.

As policymakers move forward with this plan, it is also key that they pay close attention to how this proposal might disproportionately impact different Wisconsin communities, either geographically, those with disabilities, or communities of color. Disparities by race and income are already persistent in Wisconsin.

The building blocks for self-sufficiency are investments in high-quality education from cradle to career and good quality health care, not policies that make it harder for parents to provide for their families. State policymakers must focus on these investments in order to build the workforce for the 21st century.

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