While Washington remains in a political deadlock, unable to solve the dependency problems that are threatening to cripple citizens across the nation, state leaders are left with the burden. But some leaders have turned the burden into an opportunity — a chance to face big problems within their communities head-on.
In his 2011 inaugural address, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker laid out a plan to return to limited government while increasing prosperity through the creation of private-sector jobs. By January of this year, Wisconsin had cut taxes by more $4.7 billion and more people were working than ever before.
In 2015, Walker emphasized the value of work in reducing government dependency by expanding upon the work requirements the state had implemented in select areas during the prior year. Again, more people went back to work.
Earlier in 2017, Walker went even farther in expanding work requirements to free individuals and families from the welfare trap and the cycle of dependency. Walker proposed a pilot program that would expand work requirements to able-bodied adults on food stamps with school-age children. In addition, his budget called for extending work requirements to childless adults on Medicaid and pursuing a pilot program to implement them in public housing.
The reasoning was simple: Work is the most effective way to get able-bodied individuals — with children or without — off welfare. Individuals who returned to work after work requirements were implemented not only increased their incomes but made enough to surpass their former incomes and welfare benefits combined, leaving them better off than they had been on welfare.
It’s the type of commonsense solution that millions of Americans across the nation desperately need as they struggle to break free from the trap of dependency. But as Washington remains embroiled in disagreements, congressional representatives and the federal government aren’t giving them the solutions they need. And in too many cases, neither are their state leaders — even when they vowed to do so.
Things are different in Wisconsin, where Walker is committed to making it easier for people to get back to work, empowering them to experience the freedom of work. And Walker’s not the only state leader who remains committed to improving the lives of his constituents through effective policies.
Walker is committed to making it easier for people to get back to work, empowering them to experience the freedom of work.
In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey has led the way in eliminating government barriers to work by reducing excessive occupational-licensing laws. Ducey’s policies have gotten the government out of the way of work and have opened doors for Arizonans who want to regain their independence and dignity through work. But that’s not all — in removing excessive regulations that stifled competition and economic opportunity, Ducey has created an active work force and a booming economy in Arizona.
State leaders such as Walker and Ducey are stepping up to the plate when it matters most — not just during the campaign, but now, when their constituents desperately need solutions. Still, two isn’t enough. The number of people receiving welfare benefits — whether food stamps or Medicaid — has skyrocketed over the past decade. State budgets are at their breaking points, being squeezed for cash that they simply do not have.
The answer should be simple: leaders who don’t just encourage work but implement smart policies that allow people to work. Leaders who see government dependency as a growing concern — and enact commonsense solutions to combat it. The answer should be simple, and it is: more state leaders who back up their promises with effective policy.
— Tarren Bragdon is the president of the Foundation for Government Accountability and a former state representative from Maine.