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Heartland Institute Applauds Sweeping Welfare Reform in Wisconsin

February 28, 2018

Opponent of Reform Decried Heartland Institute’s Influence from Floor of State Senate

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is expected to sign a series of welfare reform bills that would include work requirements for welfare recipients. The welfare overhaul measures passed by the Wisconsin Legislature at the governor’s request increased the number of hours able bodied adults must work or enroll in job training from 20 hours to 30 hours per week to receive benefits. The reforms would mandate drug testing for public housing assistance, with funding for alcohol and drug addiction treatment. The reform package also prohibits food stamps and other Medicaid benefits if a recipient’s home is worth more than $321,000, creates an Earned Income Tax Credit pilot program, implements asset testing, and creates Medical Assistance Savings Accounts.

Many of these reforms were suggested in The Heartland Institute’s 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card and the fourth edition of The Patriot’s Toolbox, which was sent to legislators in Wisconsin. Heartland experts also testified at hearings in the Wisconsin Legislature.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), a gubernatorial candidate, said from the floor of the Senate on February 20: “There is something seriously wrong, not only with this bill, Mr. President, but with the influence of The Patriot’s Handbook [sic] and The Heartland Institute on the Wisconsin Legislature.”

The following statements from policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest – or to connect to Heartland’s professional TV studio or podcast studio for your program – please contact Media Specialist Billy Aouste at and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 847/445-7554.

“This is what real policy leadership looks like.

“Congratulations to Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature for passing these long-overdue welfare reforms. The Heartland Institute was pleased to assist in their development and plans to promote the adoption of these in the other 49 states.”

Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D.
The Heartland Institute

Dr. Huelskamp represented Kansas’ 1st District in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017 and led welfare reform efforts as a state senator in Kansas for 14 years.

“The package of reforms passed by the Wisconsin Legislature and being signed by Gov. Scott Walker – including work requirements, the creation of an Earned Income Tax Credit pilot program, asset testing, and the creation of Medical Assistance Savings Accounts represent a comprehensive approach to encouraging self-sufficiency that also preserves an important safety net for those who need assistance the most. Congress and states followed Wisconsin’s lead in the 1990s when Gov. Tommy Thompson signed similarly groundbreaking welfare reforms. The states should once again look to Wisconsin as a model for innovative welfare reforms that will help move people from government dependency to self-sufficiency. Heartland has and will continue to be a leader in this area and promote welfare reforms at the national and state levels.”

John Nothdurft
Director of Government Relations
The Heartland Institute

“Encouraging people to depend on taxpayers for food, shelter, and health care is cruel, not compassionate. The sure way out of poverty is work, and this new legislation will provide great long-term benefits to the non-disabled population to which it applies: lasting employability, independence, and personal satisfaction in their self-made freedom from want. Reversing the misguided policies that encouraged dependency and punished self-reliance is an important step in spreading achievement of the American Dream. Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin legislature are doing the right thing for both the poor and the state’s taxpayers.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Publications
The Heartland Institute

Tim Huelskamp served as president of The Heartland Institute from 2017 to 2019.
John Nothdurft joined the staff of The Heartland Institute in May 2008 and left in January of 2019.
S.T. Karnick is the director of publications for The Heartland Institute.