Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said the GOP package proposing changes to the state’s welfare programs is designed to move people into work and help fill thousands of available jobs.
But Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said the measures are punitive and aren’t the help people need to find family-supporting jobs.
The two lawmakers debated the bills on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
“What we’re trying to do is get as many people that aren’t in the workforce now prepared every way we can to enter those jobs that are currently available, and have a productive way of life,” Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said.
Subeck countered that people need access to affordable child care and better transportation to get to the jobs that will enable them to support their families.
“What we’ve been seeing here in these programs is really a cynical view, that uses sort of heavy-handed punishment to push people into jobs that they may or may not be able to keep, and that they may or may not be able to support their families on,” Subeck said.
Steineke denied the bills are punitive.
“What’s punitive is keeping people reliant on government and not being independent,” he said.
Subeck said many of the people who use the welfare programs are already working.
“This is our basic safety net, and we cannot afford to erode it,” she said.
Also on the program, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, who is retiring Feb. 16, discussed his 10 years leading the department.
Gousha asked Flynn about his statement that he is leaving behind a “model agency.”
“You know your critics will disagree with that. Why do you say it’s a model agency?” Gousha asked.
“We’ve gotten more awards in these last 10 years than in the history of this department,” Flynn said.
“So many national associations have given us awards for excellence. In things like community policing, problem solving, dealing with the homeless, dealing with a wide variety of community issues,” Flynn said.
Flynn also said he was frustrated by increasingly contentious relationships with current members of the city’s Common Council. He said relations “have kind of degenerated.”
He pointed out that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett won re-election by a huge margin against an opponent whose only issue was public safety.
“Now I would think that would mean something. But as I began to try to forge a relationship with this council, I found that the issues of crime and race and community were highly politicized and were representing ends in themselves,” he said.
Flynn said city politicians “were avoiding difficult conversations about the disparate impact of crime on the poor, and basically more comfortable using police activity to build constituencies rather than solve problems.”
See more on the program: