November 13, 2015

 Continuing Wisconsin's Welfare Reform Tradition

Reforming welfare so it works for those who truly need it is a Wisconsin tradition that I am honored to continue.

A necessary function of government is to care for those less fortunate. Along with this duty comes the task of ensuring that programs designed to help our citizens in need are utilized in their intended manner.

Wisconsin has been a leader in welfare reform starting in the 1990s when Governor Tommy Thompson led the charge to replace dependence on government with the tools to succeed. Since then, Wisconsin has continued to pave the way in caring for our people in need while using taxpayer dollars wisely. Recently however, it has become clear that several of our public benefit programs (FoodShare and Unemployment Insurance) are in need of some basic updates to ensure that only individuals who need tax-payer assistance are receiving them.

The FoodShare program helps people with limited means buy the food they need. It’s a resource for Wisconsinites of all ages who are living on a small or fixed income, have lost their job, retired or are disabled. Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program was created to provide a temporary source of income, financed by employers, for workers who were laid off from their jobs. In addition, the program was implemented to further broaden societal goals, which included establishing a policy designed to encourage stable employment practices and a mechanism to provide an economic stimulus during economic downturns.

Unfortunately, over time, some individuals have found ways to take advantage of these public benefit programs, and are essentially stealing from taxpayers and other public benefit recipients. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report entitled “Fraud taints FoodShare program,” 2,000 FoodShare recipients reported losing their cards six or more times just in 2010. Sixty people had cards replaced 12 or more times. Furthermore, a 2014 audit by the Legislative Audit Bureau, discovered 67,000 fraudulent payments and found $51.4 million in Unemployment Insurance overpayments in the past two fiscal years. While we all know mistakes can happen, intentionally stealing from the state and taxpayers should not be tolerated.

That’s why I was proud to cast my vote in support of a package of bills that aim to protect public benefits from misuse and theft. The four proposals include measures to expunge unused FoodShare benefits after one year, reduce the number of FoodShare replacement cards, place a photo on FoodShare cards, and crack down on intentional fraud of unemployment benefits. These are common-sense precautions that will maintain the integrity and sustainability of these important programs.

My responsibility as your representative is to use your taxpayer dollars wisely. We cannot allow taxpayer dollars to be directed to someone who is intentionally scamming the system. Thanks to the Assembly’s work on preserving the integrity of Wisconsin’s safety-net programs, you can rest assured that your tax dollars are being spent on individuals who won’t take advantage of them. Reforming welfare so it works for those who truly need it is a Wisconsin tradition that I am honored to continue.


Update: Speakers Task Force on Alzheimer's & Dementia



This week the Speakers Task Force on Alzheimer's and Dementia took a Tour of Brewster Village. The tour of Brewster Village showcased the long term care facility and their work with residents who suffer from Alzheimer's and Dementia. Thank you to Brewster Village for having us.  After the tour, we held the first of our series of Public Hearings for the Task Force in different parts of the state.  The hearing provided excellent testimony from both the invited speakers, and the public.  These hearings are designed for face-to-face sharing of ideas, concerns and input.  I hope you will join us at one of the next public hearings.


The remaining hearing schedule:


Wednesday, November 18th – Rhinelander area public hearing
Thursday, December 3rd – Dodgeville area public hearing
Wednesday, December 9th – Eau Claire area public hearing


I will continue to keep you all informed on what we are doing, I’m proud to have the opportunity to bring awareness to this important issue.




The Group Tour of Brewster Village


What's Been Happening

Recently, I've had the pleasure of attending some local events, in addition to meeting with people at the Capitol in Madison.


The Wisconsin Physical Therapy Association had their annual legislative day in the Capitol.  Katie Place, from South Wayne, and her group of Physical Therapy students at UW-Madison stopped in my office to discuss legislation that pertained to their field.


I had the opportunity to meet with the Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, which is made up of representatives from Green, Lafayette, Iowa, Grant and Rock Counties. Debbie Fischer, Executive Director, gave a great presentation on keeping tobacco and electronic cigarettes out of schools. Thanks to Ann Thompson, Iowa County Health Department Director, for hosting the event.


Representative Ed Brooks and I were able to meet with the Sauk County Ambassador group for their day at the Capitol.  We talked about their legislative priorities and policies of interest to them. I appreciate them taking the time to come down to Madison.


 Last Friday, I spent the morning touring the Frank Beverage Company, a beer and liquor distribution facility in Middleton. The company has a huge presence in Southwest Wisconsin, and have many employees who live in the 51at Assembly District. Thanks to Mike and Steve Frank for the invitation, and their staff for the tour and great discussion.


Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with David Breunig, Mayor of Darlington, and Steve Pickett,  Darlington City Council  Member, who were in town for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Lobby Day.  I also had the pleasure of serving on a Legislative Panel for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities for their Lobby Day in Madison as well. Our discussion included issues of interest and importance to local government, and our experiences as legislators in comparison to our local government experiences. Serving on the Panel with me were Senator Devin Lemahieu, Representative Rob Brooks, and Representative Lisa Subeck. It was nice to see and talk with the local officials from across Wisconsin, there was a great turnout!


Today, I spent the morning visiting the Shullsburg School District. Students gave a presentation on the dangers of using E-Cigarettes and tobacco. I also was able to talk to the civics/government class. Talking and listening to students is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a State Representative.




UW Physical Therapy Students . (L to R- Megan Donohue, Jordan Reeves, Katie Place-South Wayne, Rep. Todd Novak, Marysa Meyer, Brett Tober) Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention
Representative Ed Brooks and I meeting with the Sauk County Ambassadors Frank Beverage with Mike Frank (L) and Steve Frank (R)
League of Wisconsin Municipalities Lobby Day. (Darlington City Council Member Steve Pickett, Representative Todd Novak, Mayor Dave Breunig of Darlington) Legislative Panel for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.


Lafayette FACT group.  Great presentation you guys!







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