Initiatives reduce marriage penalties, increase parental responsibility, and invest in evidence-based programs

Madison – Governor Scott Walker today released a second major component of his “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” package, focused on strengthening families. The plan, to be part of Governor Walker’s budget proposal, would strengthen the expectation that both parents support their children, eliminate barriers to marriage, increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for working families, send clear messages to young people about the “Success Sequence,” and increase investment in evidence-based early home visiting programs.

“Families are the foundation of our society,” said Walker. “While we are taking steps to make public assistance programs a trampoline, not a hammock, a second vital component to move children out of poverty is to ensure families and work are rewarded, not penalized.”

Governor Walker’s reforms would re-establish the requirement that, as a condition of receiving FoodShare, custodial parents must cooperate with child support enforcement to establish paternity and a child support order for the absent parent, with common-sense exemptions for cases of domestic violence or child abuse. Noncustodial parents would face similar requirements. Such a requirement was in effect prior to 2007.

“These reforms are based on the principle that both parents have a responsibility to support their children,” Governor Walker continued. “Our public programs should offer assistance to those in need, but they should also ensure that both parents are asked to fulfill their responsibilities.”

Additionally, the reforms would mitigate marriage penalties embedded in the state Earned Income Tax Credit by establishing a “honeymoon” period, allowing newly-married couples to claim the greater of what they received prior to marriage or what they would receive under current rules, for the first three years of marriage.

Approximately 8,000 filers would benefit in the first year of this change, with potentially three-times that number over time.

The state EITC for families with one child—which is low among states with credits—would be increased to boost the rewards to work. The credit would be increased from a 4 percent match on the federal credit to an 11 percent match, increasing the maximum benefit to $371 for low-income, one-child workers and lifting approximately 850 families over the poverty line while bringing the overall generosity of Wisconsin’s EITC above the national average. In total, more than $20 million would be provided in the second year of the budget.

“Too often, public assistance programs penalize people for making the decision to form the environment that is best for children,” Governor Walker said. “Wherever we can, we will seek to reduce the barriers that public assistance programs put in the way of marriage and increase the reward to work.”

Additionally, the proposal contains initiatives that aim to send clear and direct messages about the importance of the “Success Sequence” to young people: that if a person graduates high school, then gets a job, and then waits until age 21 and marries before having children, he or she has a 75 percent chance of joining the middle class and a 2 percent chance of being in poverty as an adult. The full proposal would incorporate the success sequence into the Academic and Career Planning program, as well as support for a public messaging campaign around these themes.

“These efforts are aimed at providing young people with the information they need to make the decisions that will set them up for success later in life, and I hope church leaders, community leaders, neighbors, coaches, teachers, and leaders from both sides of the aisle join in our efforts to strengthen families,” said Governor Walker.

New investments will also be made in the Family Foundations Home Visiting (FFHV) program, which supports pregnant women and families and helps parents of children from birth to age five to develop the skills to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy. The additional $3.9 million investment would cover an additional 400 – 550 families under evidence-based models shown by research to improve child outcomes, family self-sufficiency, and health and safety.

FFHV works to improve outcomes in six focus areas:
Improved maternal and child health
Prevention of child injuries, child abuse, neglect and maltreatment
Increased school readiness and achievement
Reduced domestic violence
Improved family economic self-sufficiency
Greater coordination and referrals for other community resources and support

The full details of Governor Walker’s Wisconsin Works for Everyone plan will be presented in the 2017 – 2019 Executive Budget proposal.

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