More on welfare reform: Rocket Man and I spent several months researching and writing about the welfare systems adopted by Minnesota and Wisconsin following passage of the federal welfare reform law of 1996, which required the states to adopt welfare systems to replace AFDC, but left the states free to design the systems within certain broad constraints. Under the leadership of then-Governor Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin adopted a system (dubbed W-2, short for “Wisconsin Works”) that actually required welfare recipients to work in exchange for benefits. The result was the virtual disappearance of Wisconsin’s welfare case load. Minnesota, on the other hand, adopted a system (MFIP, short for the “Minnesota Family Investment Program”) that “encouraged” work, but did not require it. The result was a system that was reformed in name only and that has accordingly continued to produce all the negative effects of AFDC.
While researching the long essay we published about the two welfare systems, we interviewed both Minnesota’s then-House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty and Governor Pawlenty’s recently appointed welfare commissioner, then-Representative Kevin Goodno. Kevin understood what was wrong with Minnesota’s system, and understood that its “reform” was mostly pretend, including the putative time limits. It appears that Governor Pawlenty and Commissioner Goodno now mean to bring Minnesota’s system closer to Wisconsin’s. We shall see. In the meantime, the Star Tribune reported on these developments in a story last Friday: “Pawlenty outlines tougher welfare rules.”
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