Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oh SNAP, Walker's Cost Cutting Measure Could Be Costly. Again.

Some people just cannot or will not learn from their mistakes.

Scott Walker is one of the most glaring examples of that type of person.

As Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker thought he'd be clever and grossly short staffing the Income Maintenance Program, most notably the call center of said program. Instead of having the thirty workers that the County Board had provided funding for, Walker would have as few as five people trying to do the job of the missing thirty. It should be noted that Walker played this cruel political stunt just as the country was entering the worst recession in the nation's history and unemployment rates soared. Instead of getting the help they needed, many of Milwaukee County's most needy citizens got only busy signals.

By sabotaging the program this way, he was hoping to show that the county workers couldn't do the job and that this would open the door for privatization of the program.  However, things didn't work out the way Walker wanted them to.

Before he could privatize the system, a class action was filed against the county as well as the state.  In order to save tax payers millions of dollars in fines, the state reached an agreement and took over the program from the county. While it saved state tax payers a lot of money by not having to pay for Walker's folly, the move did cost county tax payers more to clean up the mess Walker made.  The cost was more than what Walker said the short staffing would save.  My, how did Walker howl about that!

Now fast forward to today and Walker is now governor.

Instead of wanting to preserve local control like he claimed to value just a few years ago, in his proposed budget, Walker is suggesting taking the FoodShare program from the counties who are administering it and put it strictly as a state function. Walker claims he wants to do this in order to streamline the process (and lay off 270 workers).

The one thing that Walker is consistent on from that time to this one is wanting to privatize the income maintenance services, especially the FoodShare program (otherwise know as food stamps), or as the federal government calls it, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

One problem with that plan -- it's against federal rules.

And the feds know about it.  In a letter from Ollice Holden, regional director of United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, to Dennis Smith, Secretary of Health Services, it is made perfectly clear that the feds won't accept Walker's plan:

As when he was county executive, we see Walker continue with a pattern of acting first and worrying about the legality and viability of his actions later.  If Walker and the Republican legislators follow through with this plan, the state will lose the federal share of the cost to run the program, which is 50% of the total administrative costs.  Considering that the fully federally funded portion, the benefits themselves, is now at a staggering billion dollars, the administrative cost is quite considerable as well.

Also of concern is the Walker's proposal to generally cut the staffing numbers.  In the letter, Holden warns that the feds will not abide with another drop in quality of services or a loss of accuracy.  However, indications are that Walker would also cut back staff whose job is to make sure that money isn't being paid out where is shouldn't be.  And this comes at a time, as Holden pointed out, that the system is wide open and ripe for fraud and abuse.

If Walker and his GOP cohorts do follow through with this plan, and the federal funds are cut, they will have to find that money somewhere without cutting these services or staffing, because that class action lawsuit is still pending.  Failure to meet their end of the agreement would expose all of the state's tax payers to millions or tens of millions of dollars in fines.

Apparently, in Fitzwalkerstan, it's more important to give the appearance of cutting spending than actually being fiscally or socially responsible. Walker's cost cutting actions will cost us much more, in more ways than one, than any savings he could ever hope to claim.


  1. Great reporting, thanks.

    Walker has appeared to me to think he claims some measure of victory when he makes government look bad. That's the only way I can explain, among a lot of examples, his twin Milwaukee County failures to ID the fraud in Wisconsin Shares (daycare) and Food Shares.

    Not sure how he thinks he's not accountable.

    OT. AG Van Hollen appears to have made some mistakes: "Dismissal upheld in day care abuse case"

  2. " One problem with that plan -- it's against federal rules."
    Screw the Feds

  3. Walker isn't "stupid" in regard to accomplishing his goal of making government look bad so he can claim that privatization is justified. "Responsible" financial management is NOT his goal. His goal is to destroy all labor and workers' rights AND deliver more public monies to his corporate patrons. The real question is how long Wisconsin Republican working-class voters will be fooled by this con game.