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State Senator Questions Assumptions about Wisconsin Support Programs

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says "public assistance should be a trampoline and not a hammock."  Republican leadership has introduced bills to make it harder to get public assistance; Democrats say they're based on misinformation. (Wikimedia Commons)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says "public assistance should be a trampoline and not a hammock." Republican leadership has introduced bills to make it harder to get public assistance; Democrats say they're based on misinformation. (Wikimedia Commons)
March 5, 2018

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic state senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma says the package of proposals under Special Assembly Bill 6 makes false assumptions about fraud in the state's assistance programs.

The proposed legislation would make it harder for those living in poverty to get help, according to Vinehout. She said the rules fly in the face of common sense, and that Gov. Scott Walker is assuming that people are lazy and just need a kick to get moving.

"And we heard this over and over again in the committee and on the floor debate,” Vinehout said. “We had Republican senators saying, 'We just want to make sure that somebody's not driving a Lexus or a BMW and getting FoodShare.'"

Republican leadership has said FoodShare and BadgerCare are riddled with fraud, and that many of the people receiving the benefits are just too lazy to work. But Vinehout said both of those assumptions are faulty, noting that the measured fraud rate in the programs is about 1 percent.

Vinehout said she's all for getting rid of fraud wherever it's actually found in the programs, but the facts don't support the proposed legislation.

"Two-thirds of the people who get help with FoodShare are seniors, disabled or children,” she said. “These are folks who can't work. And of the rest of the people, half of them are already working."

Walker and Republican leadership favor expanding the FoodShare Employment and Training Program, usually referred to as F-set. A study from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said F-set participants work an average of 34 hours a week and are still eligible for FoodShare.

Vinehout said the legislative priorities are wrong.

"First of all, we need to get our own house in order,” she said. “We need to make sure these programs are run well before they're expanded, and we need to make sure the people getting the contracts aren't taking the money and not delivering the services - which happens so much in this administration."

Vinehout said the F-set program already costs double the original budget estimate and that Federal inspectors have turned up a number of problems with the program.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI