November 5, 2015

Reforming Wisconsin's Public Benefit Programs

This week, Assembly Republicans took a step forward in the fight against fraud, waste, and abuse in public benefit programs. As part of our agenda to protect taxpayers, this week we passed Assembly Bill (AB) 188, AB 200, AB 212, and AB 222, which will reform Wisconsinís welfare programs.

Like many government welfare programs, Wisconsinís public benefit programs have been a breeding ground for fraud. In Wisconsin, some citizens have sold their food stamps (FoodShare) benefits for cash, hoarded thousands of dollars in unused benefits, and have fraudulently received unemployment insurance (UI) payments. A 2014 audit of the UI program discovered 67,000 fraudulent payments made to 44,488 unique social security numbers. Furthermore, the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) found $51.4 million in UI overpayments between fiscal year 11-12 and fiscal year 13-14. Fraud in the FoodShare program is evidenced by the amount of recipients ďlosingĒ their card. In 2010, 2,000 FoodShare recipients reported losing their card six or more times. There is reason to believe that these participants sold their cards for cash. Another form of FoodShare fraud involves people hoarding thousands of dollars of unneeded benefits in their accounts. By fraudulently receiving benefits they clearly do not need, some recipients have accumulated almost $15,000 dollars in benefits. If they are not using their benefits to that extent, they clearly do not need them.

The legislation we passed this week will help fix each of the problems outlined above. AB 188 will prevent the hoarding of unused FoodShare benefits by freezing accounts if they are not used in six months, and emptying accounts if they are dormant for a year. FoodShare is a need-based program meant for those who have fallen on hard times and need temporary assistance. If a recipient doesnít need the benefits the program provides then those benefits should instead be directed to those truly in need.

AB 200 and AB 222 also aim to eliminate fraud in the FoodShare program. AB 200 limits the number of FoodShare replacement cards a recipient can receive before a formal investigation for fraud is opened. Once a recipient requests their 4th card in one calendar year the state may open an investigation, and after a 5th, an investigation is opened. This policy allows for the possibility of a recipient losing their card, while cracking down on people who may be fraudulently selling their benefit card. AB 222 adds photo identification onto FoodShare benefit cards. This will reduce fraud and prevent the sale of cards by helping ensure that the person using the benefit card is truly the recipient of the benefits.

AB 212 deals strictly with Unemployment Insurance (UI) reform. The bill makes fraudulently accepting UI benefits a crime. If a person improperly received UI benefits two times, they will not qualify to receive them for 7 years. The UI program is intended to be a temporary assistance program for some of Wisconsinís most vulnerable citizens. Money that is used on improper payments is money that could be used to help someone who truly needs it.

Furthermore, a provision in the 2015-2017 state budget which requires drug screening for welfare recipients has begun to be implemented. On November 3rd, Governor Walker approved a rule submitted by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families which will begin to implement the program. Under the plan, welfare recipients who fail a drug test will be eligible for a drug treatment plan. This will help them become a more viable candidate for employment, and will help some of Wisconsinís most vulnerable citizens get back on their feet.

Together these reforms will reduce fraud in Wisconsinís welfare programs and protect taxpayers. After passing the State Assembly, they now go to the State Senate for approval.

Banning Investment with Iran

In addition to the work weíve done on public welfare reform, Representative Kooyenga, Senator Vukmir and I are circulating a bill to prohibit taxpayer money from being invested in Iran. The bill would prohibit the State of Wisconsinís Investment Board (SWIB) from investing any of over 100 billion dollars it controls in companies that conduct business with Iran.

Any money that Iran receives will be used to develop more effective weapons which they could give to terrorist organizations that they support. It is estimated that 500 American casualties can be attributed to Iranian involvement in terrorist operations. We must do anything we can to stop the flow of money into Iran.

If passed, this bill will make Wisconsin the 26th state to pass a similar measure in response to President Obamaís botched negotiations with Iran. This bill will prohibit Wisconsinís state taxpayers from funding the rogue regime.

August Condemns Anti-Gun Bill Authored by Madison Liberals
Vows to defend 2nd Amendment Rights of all Wisconsinites

MADISONÖState Representative Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) issued the following statement in response to a bill being circulated by a handful of Madison legislators that would ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols:

ďAs a gun owner and life member of the NRA, I am extremely disturbed by the anti-gun bill being circulated in the Assembly that is an attack on our 2nd Amendment rights.

Unfortunately there are some in Madison that fear what they donít understand. The truth is that this bill would actually ban firearms that many Wisconsinites currently own both for hunting and self-defense.

I will vehemently oppose this bill and will do everything I can to ensure it does not pass.Ē

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State Capitol Room 119 West
PO Box 8952 Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-1190