New LFB Paper Illustrates Why Tapping TANF Funding Appears Unlikely
The Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill today that we strongly support, because it is aimed at expanding a program to provide on-the-job training to low-income people. The only catch is that it isn’t funded, and the prospects for funding it don’t look promising anytime soon.
The bill in question is SB 333, which is part of the package of workforce training bills proposed by the Governor in late September. It authorizes expansion of the Transitional Jobs program, which now only operates in Milwaukee. Transitional Jobs was first implemented several years ago as a pilot program, with funding from the federal Recovery Act. Although that came to an end, the 2013-15 biennial budget bill created a new version of it in Milwaukee, which is now called the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program. It was allocated $9.9 million from the federal welfare reform block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Read more
Since late spring we’ve been raising concerns that the biennial budget bill cuts funding for the welfare-to-work program known as Wisconsin Works (W-2) based on faulty assumptions. This June 17 paper examines the problem and explains how reducing W-2 spending and shifting federal block grant funds made it easier to cut state taxes in the budget bill.
This week the Walker Administration acknowledged the W-2 shortfall and submitted a plan to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to narrow the funding gap by $9.6 million. The plan submitted to JFC by the Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) and Dept. of Health Services (DHS) closes part of the gap by using unallocated federal funding known as “income augmentation” revenues. These funds are received by the state as the federal share of state and local spending for things like Targeted Case Management and the Medicaid HealthCheck program.
A Significant Economic Hit to the National Economy and a Gradually Expanding Erosion of Key Programs
Economists expect the federal government shutdown to have significant adverse consequences for the national economy. This LA Times article reports that some project that even just a two-week partial shutdown will cause a reduction of 0.3 to 0.4 of a percentage point from national economic growth in the fourth quarter. That’s particularly a problem when the economic recovery is already so sluggish that job growth has been barely keeping ahead of population growth.
I worry about those economic consequences, but I am also very concerned about the effects of the shutdown on children and families in our state – especially for low-income and vulnerable families. Fortunately, most federally funded programs for those families will continue at least through October, but the consequences could be very serious for vulnerable families if the shutdown lasts well into the fall. Read more
Budget’s Diversion of Funding for Low-income Families Is Based on Faulty Assumptions
When legislators take floor votes this week, they will decide whether and how much to cut spending for the Wisconsin Works (W-2) program, which aids unemployed low-income families, and whether they divert the savings to use for things like tax cuts for the wealthy. The arguments that state budget writers have used to support a W-2 cut are running up against some very inconvenient facts that contradict the Joint Finance Committee’s assumptions.
As I’ve written on other occasions (such as this blog post), the budget bill’s cut in W-2 spending is part of a strategy that siphons off money intended for low-income families – in order to free up General Fund dollars to use for other purposes, such as the proposed income tax cut.
The spending cut was based on the assumption that W-2 participation would decline steadily, beginning well before the start of the new biennium. Read more
Omnibus Motion on DCF Issues Frees Up Additional TANF Funds to Address Recent W-2 Growth
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved an omnibus motion (#364) late today that makes a few improvements in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) budget, but which is nonetheless very disappointing in many important respects. We’ll take a closer look at that motion soon, but here’s an overview of the good and bad news – starting with the positive parts of the motion:
- It cuts state GPR support for the EITC by less than the Governor recommended. His budget would have used an additional $27 million per year of federal TANF funds to replace state funding for the EITC. The motion reduces that funding shift to $19 million per year, thereby not siphoning off as much of the TANF funding to use elsewhere in the budget.
- The motion reduces the cut to Wisconsin Works (W-2) by $18 million, which reflects the fact that W-2 spending has grown by 8.5% since last fall, instead of declining by 5.9 %, as DCF anticipated.
Shifting Federal Funding for Low-income Families to DOR Leaves Very Large Gap in W-2 Budget
New Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) papers reinforce concerns raised several weeks ago in the Budget Project’s issue brief about the federal funding being siphoned away from programs supporting low-income families. The LFB papers, which are on the May 21 agenda for the Joint Finance Committee, examine the budget bill’s proposals for the use of federal block grant funds intended to serve low-income families.
One of our concerns was that the budget makes deep cuts in the funding for W-2 based on the unrealistic assumption that W-2 participation and spending would drop by 1% each month from the level in December 2012. Although we noted that participation has been increasing, rather than decreasing, LFB paper #196 shows that the difference is even more substantial than we thought because the cost per family has also grown. As a result, W-2 expenditures have increased 8.5% since September of last year, whereas the Dept. Read more
Going, Going, Gone – How the Budget Eliminates the TANF Balance and Shortchanges Low-income Families
Several important aspects of the budget bill’s funding for public assistance programs have received little or no attention:
- The bill siphons off funding intended for low-income families and uses it for other purposes, such as tax cuts.
- The proposed budget eliminates the current $84 million balance in federal funds from the block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), even though spending is being cut significantly for the three major programs financed with the TANF funds.
- The budget may significantly underfund Wisconsin Works (W-2), because participation in the program has grown sharply over the past three months, and the proposed W-2 spending assumes a substantial drop in participation.
A new issue brief released today by the Wisconsin Budget Project explains how the budget has the paradoxical effect of eliminating the TANF balance, even as it makes cuts to the following programs:
- It cuts W-2 funding by $34 million over the next two years;
- It reduces funding for child care subsidies (Wisconsin Shares) by about $35 million; and
- It decreases total spending for the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by about $16 million.
Upping the Ante on an Act 10 Tactic (of Tapping TANF) Helps Free up Funds for Tax Cuts
The “budget repair bill” signed by Governor Walker two years ago today contained a number of significant changes that didn’t get a lot of attention at the time, since they were overshadowed by the tumultuous debate about the collective bargaining measures. One of those was a budget shell game that removes $37 million per year from the federal block grant known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
The two-year anniversary of the signing of Act 10 is a timely opportunity to take note of that maneuver because the Governor is proposing to double down on that strategy in the 2013-15 budget. His proposed budget bill increases the size of the TANF transfer by $27 million per year.
As we explained in a WCCF blog post in July 2011, the budget repair and biennial budget bills reduced by $111 million over three years the TANF funding available for intended purposes like the Wisconsin Works program (W-2) and child care subsidies for low-income workers. Read more
Does New Jersey experience offer lessons for Wisconsin?
A column by Paul Krugman in the June 22nd New York Times offers some interesting perspectives on the growing push to privatize public services. Although the impetus for the column (Prisons, Privatization, Patronage) is a recent series of articles on the effects of privatizing halfway houses in New Jersey, Krugman’s commentary is worth pondering as Wisconsin moves closer to fully privatizing administration of the Wisconsin Works (W-2) program. (See our June 8 blog post.)
Although I don’t think all of the Krugman critique of the New Jersey privatization and “halfway house hell” is relevant for W-2, some of it strikes me as very pertinent – including his argument that privatization often has little to do with cost-savings; instead it may be about deferring or shifting costs. As the column notes:
“….privatization can serve as a stealth form of government borrowing, in which governments avoid recording upfront expenses (or even raise money by selling existing facilities) while raising their long-run costs in ways taxpayers can’t see.
WCCF Urges Governor to Slow Down Plans that Would End County Role
Actually, the question of whether Wisconsin should privatize W-2 administration is a bit misleading. The more precisely worded question is whether the state should completely privatize it. Since the inception of Wisconsin Works, counties have had the option of whether to administer it themselves or allow W-2 to be managed in their area by a private entity. However, that may soon change because the plan developed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for administering W-2 regionally would make it virtually impossible for any county or consortium of counties to administer the program in their area.
From the outset of W-2, it has been managed in Milwaukee by a number of private organizations, but counties in many other parts of the state have decided to keep administering it because they concluded that doing so would allow them to better do a better job of coordinating services and ensuring quality, compared to turning it over to organizations that are seeking to make a profit. Read more