Assembly Republicans look to unemployment reforms, Democrats say they won’t help

(The Center Square) – Another package of reforms from Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin is likely doomed.

Assembly Republicans on Tuesday turned their focus to unemployment reforms they say are designed to help people get back to work.

“We have a workforce problem,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters before Tuesday’s votes. “There are only so many strategies that the state can employ, but the one that’s the most obvious - which is why we are here today - is to make sure that every single able-bodied person is able to be in the workforce and they’re not sitting on the sidelines because they are able to either game the system or utility programs that are meant to be a safety net.”

Among the legislation the Assembly Republicans support are to tie unemployment benefits to Wisconsin’s unemployment rate, which would limit the amount of time people can collect unemployment when the jobless rate is low. As well as plans to require anyone on unemployment to look for work and show-up if they’re offered a job, as well as a proposal that would force people to prove they are still eligible for BadgerCare.

“Eighty percent-or-so of the state said that able-bodied, childless adults should be in the workforce, and that’s what this package of bills [does],” Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva said.

Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly supported a non-binding referendum on a work requirement for public benefits in the state. Republican lawmakers say they are simply following through.

Democrats in the Assembly said instead of requiring more from people on unemployment, the legislature should be expanding benefits like BadgerCare and state-supported child care payments.

“We could have talked about other supports that are needed for our workers to get to work and stay working. Like access to transit, and affordable housing,” Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said. “But unfortunately the bills brought forward today…are going to do the opposite of solve the workforce crisis. They will exacerbate it.”

Tuesday’s vote in the Assembly is likely just perfunctory. Gov. Tony Evers vetoed some of the same plans last year and is expected to do so again this year.

Speaker Vos said he shouldn’t.

“I heard Gov. Evers say in his inauguration that ‘the will of the people should be the law of the land,’ so here’s a prime example,” Vos said Tuesday. “Hopefully Gov. Evers looks at the results of what happened around the state [with the April referendum], realizes that he should have signed them before.”