Wisconsin ballot measure to ask voter opinion on work requirements for welfare programs

The Wisconsin State Legislature on January 19 approved a ballot measure for the April 4, 2023, election that asks voters whether what the measure refers to as able-bodied, childless adults should be required to search for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits.

The ballot measure, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) and co-sponsored by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R), aims to assess public opinion on whether certain work-related activities should be required for welfare recipients. Vos and Republican lawmakers have proposed requiring work-related activities for Medicaid and state assistance programs (such requirements, when enforced, are limited under current state law to the joint federal-state unemployment insurance and food stamps programs). Governor Tony Evers (D) vetoed a package of welfare and workforce-related bills last session, including a proposal that would have required the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to enforce the existing work requirement for food stamps recipients, which the department had waived through September 2022 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We are confident the public supports this,” state Senator Chris Kapenga (R) told Fox News Digital. “We think this will put public pressure on the governor.”

Evers argued that the ballot measure wouldn’t prove useful to lawmakers, according to the Associated Press. “It’s advising something that already exists,” he said, referencing the state’s existing work requirements. “So I think [it’s] frankly ridiculous.”

The Wisconsin State Senate voted 22-10 to approve the measure and the Wisconsin State Assembly followed suit by a 62-35 vote. A lawsuit challenging whether the measure met the January 25 filing deadline is pending in Dade County Circuit Court. 

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