Welfare reform bills making their way through committees

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

An Assembly panel Tuesday signed off on a slate of legislation that would overhaul the state’s welfare system over objections from Dems, who voted against each of the 10 bills.

Meanwhile, the Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations Committee approved two of the bills via paper ballot, also along 3-2 party-line votes.

The legislation was included in Gov. Scott Walker’s call for a special session last month. The package aims to set new requirements for various government assistance programs including food stamps.

But Assembly committee Dems, including Rep. Lisa Subeck, said the package “demonizes poor people” and is unnecessarily costly.

“These bills are all so similarly written that they put people who are low income or who are struggling in jeopardy. And that saddens me, to throw a lot of money away to demonize the poor,” the Madison Dem said. “I feel like it’s political statements at the expense of those who are struggling in the state.”

And Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, noted the combined fiscal estimates from the Department of Health Services and Department of Children and Families on the bills mean the package is expected to cost $93.5 million annually — excluding one-time start-up costs.

After 11 years there would be “more than a billion dollar increase in government,” he said.

“Will it increase employment? Will it reduce poverty? If the answer’s not a resounding yes — which based on our conversations in the public hearing, it was not, it was the sound of silence — I think it’s clear that we cannot go in this direction,” he said.

But Republicans and committee Chair Rep. Scott Krug countered the package continues to ensure the state acts as a national leader in welfare reform — and that GOP lawmakers have been unfairly characterized as “evil detractors” for their efforts.

“I think this is absolutely paramount to our success when we have 3 percent unemployment and jobs to fill yet,” the Nekoosa Republican said.

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