Tommy Thompson on Welfare & Poverty

Former Secretary of H.H.S.; former Republican Governor (WI)

Converted welfare into work-required benefit

Thompson was given a Mostly True for saying that while he was governor, "we ended welfare." His W-2 program didn't eliminate every program that might be considered a handout. But it did end the entitlement program most commonly known as welfare, replacing it with one that requires nearly all recipients to work for their benefits.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2012 Wisc. Senate debate , Sep 27, 2012

Replace welfare program with self-sufficiency program

[The “Wisconsin Works” program, known as “W-2”] replaced AFDC. It is an employment program rather than a welfare program. It requires those “who can work to get a job and those who cannot to contribute according to their abilities.” The old system showered recipients with all the welfare benefits possible, thus encouraging dependency. Wisconsin Works uses resourceful financial and employment planners who will help program participants. Planners can provide emergency loans for employment-related needs. W-2 provides participants with child care, health care, transportation and training. February 2000 figures show the W-2 caseload is under 6,700 families. That’s a reduction of 80% since W-2 started.
Source: WI Governor’s website , Jan 8, 2001

Replace Welfare with the Tools to Succeed

Gov. Thompson made building our people - particularly the poor - an important priority. Frustrated that generations of families were being locked in a welfare trap, Thompson embarked on welfare reform in 1987, long before it became a major national issue

Before starting, Thompson invited groups of welfare mothers to his home for luncheon discussions on what locked them into welfare and what was needed to free them from the trap. The most commonly cited barriers to leaving welfare were inadequate child care, health care, transportation and training - four elements that became the foundation for the governor’s reform programs.

Since 1987, Thompson has instituted many welfare reform programs and initiatives that have combined to reduce Wisconsin’s welfare caseload by more than any state in the nation.

Since 1987, Wisconsin has cut its welfare caseload by more than 93%, from 98,000 AFDC families in January 1987 to under 6,700 W-2 cash assistance families in February 2000.

Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site , Dec 25, 2000

Early leader in welfare reform

Wisconsin was so far ahead in its reforms that Gov. Thompson ended welfare and the AFDC entitlement check altogether and replaced it with a new program based on work called Wisconsin Works, better known as W-2. This program is now the standard for welfare reform in America.
Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site , Dec 25, 2000

No government handouts; demand something in return

The welfare system is a perfect example of what I refer to as government sense. When you pay people not to work, not to get married, and to have children out of wedlock, guess what happens? People do not work, they do not get married, and they have more children out of wedlock.

Handing out a welfare check and expecting nothing in return is not public assistance, it is public apathy - “Here is your check, see you next month.” So while Washington stood around and talked about how welfare needed to be changed, we in the states-I started in 1986-started doing something about it. We started offering hope and opportunity along with the welfare check and expecting certain responsibilities in return. We put common sense reforms in place. We required young men and women up to age 19 to go to school; and in the case of chronic truants, we took away that portion of the welfare check attributable to that young man or woman. Some opponents said, “What if they don’t want to go to school?” And I said, “Tough.”

Source: United We Stand America Conference, p.205-6 , Aug 12, 1995

Supports block grants to foster state experimentation

Now I am undertaking the most radical program I have ever done in welfare-we are eliminating it. We did away with the welfare department and turned it into a jobs department. Everyone has to do something in order to receive a check.

In order to accomplish these things we had to go to Washington and kiss someone’s ring to say, “Please give us a chance to try something that might work.” I have had waivers under Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Why should states need waivers to try innovative ideas in welfare? Why should we have to go to Washington and kiss somebody’s ring to do what everybody wants us to do and that is to change welfare in our society and give people jobs and hope and optimism

That is why I am fighting for the government to block grant welfare funding back to the States.

Source: United We Stand America Conference, p.207-8 , Aug 12, 1995

Support LIHEAP, low-income heating assistance.

Thompson signed the Midwestern Governors' Conference resolution:

Source: Resolution of Midwestern Governors' Conf. on LIHEAP 00-MGC2 on May 25, 2000

Supports workfare.

Thompson supports the CC Voters Guide question on workfare

Christian Coalition publishes a number of special voter educational materials including the Christian Coalition Voter Guides, which provide voters with critical information about where candidates stand on important faith and family issues. The Christian Coalition Voters Guide summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: "Requiring welfare recipients to work or get job training"

Source: Christian Coalition Voter Guide 12-CC-q20 on Oct 31, 2012

Other candidates on Welfare & Poverty: Tommy Thompson on other issues:
WI Gubernatorial:
Scott Walker
WI Senatorial:
Herbert Kohl
John Schiess
Mark Neumann
Ron Johnson
Tammy Baldwin

WI politicians

Retiring as of Jan. 2013:

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Page last updated: Nov 20, 2012