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A WI Woman’s Perspective on 2011: Not A Good Year

January 11, 2012

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Gov. Scott Walker's 2011-2013 budget made substantial cuts to a number of programs, such as child-care funding, W2 and Badger Care, which directly impact working mothers. Walker says the cuts were necessary to balance the state's budget, but Tonisha Howard of Milwaukee says the cuts have hit her family hard.

"Now I have to have a co-pay for day care, which is really expensive. I really can't afford it, and my health care has been affected because he has enforced a co-pay on that as well."

Howard, a member of the Milwaukee chapter of 9to5, a national association of working women, is a mother of three young children who works full-time and attends school. Before the 2011 budget cuts, she did not have co-pays for medications and day care. She says the cuts mean higher expenses for her.

"Much more expensive, yes. I pay almost $200 a week for child care. I have to pay for medication; I have diabetes and my son has asthma, and so I have to pay for everything now."

The budget cuts, Howard says, have meant policy changes to Wisconsin's W2 program, which have reduced local agencies' ability to be flexible in handling individual cases. She says she worries that further cuts to BadgerCare will cut even deeper into her family budget.

Howard hopes her work with 9to5 will help restore Wisconsin to a state where women are valued and low-income families have real options to get out of poverty. All parents want their children to have a better future, but Howard says it looks as though things will be worse for her children.

"I would definitely hope not, but I cannot say no; I mean, living in Wisconsin - probably."

As a working woman and student, Howard feels that education is the key to success, and says the $800 million cut to public education under the new Wisconsin budget is a step backward. Because there are so many cases like Howard's, 9to5 says, women are beginning to fight back - and are more activated than ever.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI