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 May 2, 2019

 Protecting Child Support

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I give people the benefit of the doubt before rushing to conclusions.  Every Governor’s budget upon introduction includes errors and requires technical changes so when I first learned of Governor Evers’ decision to remove the Birth Cost Recovery program, I assumed it was an honest mistake with unintended consequences.

As originally proposed, Governor Evers’ budget includes a massive decrease to county child support programs that will prevent local child support enforcement agencies from carrying out their basic functions. If the Governor’s budget were to come to fruition as proposed, local child support programs would need to lay off staff and reduce services.

Yesterday, Governor Evers’ DOA Secretary submitted the erratta (list of corrections) to the Joint Finance Committee. The erratta is a memo from the Governor’s administration to the legislature requesting corrections be made to the proposed budget to account for errors, omissions, and technical issues. I expected to see the Governor correct his mistake by removing the changes to the Birth Cost Recovery program. However, this requested correction was nowhere to be found.

As a matter of background, the state has a program called Birth Cost Recovery that requires absentee fathers of children born to women covered by Medicaid to pay a portion of the birthing cost back to the state. The amount repaid by the father depends on the birth costs, their monthly income, and regional averages of birth costs. As an example, the monthly repayment ranges from a maximum of $25 a month in Waukesha County to a maximum of $5 a month in Milwaukee County.

As you can see, the repayment program is affordable for the father but also reasonable public policy. It reminds the father that they have a child in this world for which they are responsible including reimbursing the state for costs associated with the birth of the child. Additionally, our local child support programs rely on the money collected in order to carry out basic services.

Not only does Governor Evers' proposal let these fathers off of the hook, but his elimination of the program damages county child support agencies throughout the state. The funding mechanism of the county child support system is relatively complex, but with Governor Evers’ current proposal, their funding would take a massive hit. When the money is collected from the father under the Birth Cost Recovery program, 85% of it is deposited into the Medicaid budget – assisting pregnant women, people with disabilities, and poor and needy families with their health care cost – while the other 15% is retained by the child support program. By no longer allowing our local child support enforcement agencies to collect this 15%, these agencies lose out on over $2 million in collections each year.

Governor Evers’ will claim that he coincides this cut with an overall increase to the child support budget by pointing to a general $2.25 million increase over the biennium but the overall cut to the program is still millions of dollars. The policy change represents a significant shift from the father to the taxpayer. By removing the Birth Cost Recovery program and “increasing general funding,” the child support program still inherits a $7.5 million short-fall over the biennium after accounting for the loss of federal matching dollars.

One of the issues that I have championed since becoming a legislator is ensuring the state invests in the child support system so that the program has the necessary tools to help those who need it the most. I am grateful the Joint Finance Committee was open to our concerns and as a result is removing this provision from the state budget.

It is important to note that this issue demonstrates the tremendous bias in our media coverage. If a Republican were to propose such a significant cut to child support it would generate a multi-day story. But, when proposed by Governor Evers, there is no story, no tweet, not a single question to be found.

Office Hours
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I value the opportunity to speak with constituents on the issues that matter the most to them. As your voice in Madison, I want to hear from you directly. I will be holding district office hours with Representative Hutton on the following dates:

May 3rd
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Starbucks Community Room
17980 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield

May 6th
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
UW-Milwaukee Innovation Campus Conference Room
1225 Discovery Pkwy, Wauwatosa

Kids at the Capitol

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The Wisconsin State Senate is now offering a new civic education opportunity for young people, ages 6-11, who are interested in learning more about the Capitol and the legislative process. KIDS at the Capitol is a half day program and will be offered throughout this legislative session. A copy of the application is available at: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ssgt/civics.

Do you want to learn what it is like to work in the Capitol as a page? The Wisconsin State Senate offers a program called Page for a Day. Students must be in middle or high school and are required to be 12 years of age or older. The goal of the program is for students to learn all they can about state government and how it functions. In addition to performing legislative duties, pages will be able to observe lawmakers, lobbyists, staff, and constituents that are all working together in the legislative process. Senate Pages will serve the members by assisting in the delivery of important information and messages to Senate offices. 

The Page for a Day program will be offered throughout this legislative session. A typical day would include:

Pages will arrive at 8:30 AM for orientation with the Legislative Education and Outreach Officer. They will then take a tour of the building and work with the Sergeant at Arms’ staff.

After lunch, pages will be given time to meet their Senator and may spend time working in their Senator’s office. The rest of the afternoon the page will work with the Sergeant at Arms’ office and staff. The day would end at 4:00 PM. The starting time can be flexible, depending on the needs of the student.

Application materials can be found at:
http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ssgt/civics

 
 Unemployment Rate

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The state's unemployment remains at or below 3% for the 14th straight month. This continues to prove that our formula is working, so why would we want to move backwards? Let’s continue to make the critical investments in workforce development and ensure that we are meeting the needs of workers in Wisconsin.

Capitol Visits

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St. John Lutheran School recently visited from Wauwatosa. I hope you had a great time at the Capitol!

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Thanks for visiting the Capitol Wilson Elementary from Wauwatosa!