State leaders are trying to make Wisconsin less attractive to poor people considering moving there by offering new residents only as much in welfare as they would have received in their old state.
Following a recent study that concluded the state was a "welfare magnet," Gov. Tommy G. Thompson is proposing to limit payments for incoming welfare recipients for their first three or six months in Wisconsin, his aides said Friday.The Republican governor's plan, to be included in his budget message to the Legislature, was revealed a day after a key Democrat, state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Strohl, advocated a similar plan.
"It is time that we Democrats admit that people really are moving here because of our higher benefits, and begin to address it," Strohl said.
But others say the two-tiered benefit plan, even if it applies only during a resident's first few months in the state, is unconstitutional.
"The Supreme Court says it's illegal to have a two-tiered system of benefits," said the Rev. Ted Steege, head of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy in Wisconsin.
Steege said each state "has established a standard of need for welfare recipients, and no state can create a new class of citizens who aren't entitled to that."
The Supreme Court in 1969 ruled a one-year waiting period for Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits in several states and the District of Columbia was unconstitional because it created "an invidious distinction" among citizens.