Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Photo ID for FoodShare

Wisconsin’s FoodShare program has seen numerous problems.

During 2009, the state created BadgerCare Plus Core, an extension of the BadgerCare Plus program to include adults that don't have children. The state Senate Health Committee that I serve on was informed late last year the waiting list for BadgerCare Plus Core had ballooned to about 7,000 people. The earliest the waiting list applicants would be eligible for insurance would be March 2010 and by then the waiting list, committee members were told, could grow to over 20,000.

There was a flood of applicants to BadgerCare Plus Core, causing backlogs for the new food stamp program, FoodShare, resulting in thousands of people waiting months for benefits.  The US Department of Agriculture views Wisconsin’s backlog of cases among the worst in the country. Failure to process applications and distribute or deny benefits in a timely manner could have meant federal sanctions issued against the state.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary Karen Timberlake supplied data reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the state received more than 46,000 applications for FoodShare from June 15 to October 19, 2009. Over 29,000 applicants waited more than 30 days to either obtain a debit card to purchase food or have their enrollment rejected. Wait times over the telephone to receive information about FoodShare applications are lasting over an hour.

The debit cards themselves are problematic. The Racine Journal Times has editorialized in support of a photo ID requirement for Food Share recipients:

“While the cards are stocked with a monthly stipend so they can be used much like the debit cards that banks issue, there’s one key difference. Recipients of FoodShare aid can only use the money for food — not toiletries, medicine, cigarettes or alcohol. So some people sell the cards for cash, finding willing partners who pay less than the value on the card.

Earlier this month, after county officials announced they were looking into ‘rampant’ fraud among card users here, we wrote that the state must place a keener eye on the program while resisting the urge to punish the law-abiding recipients with cutbacks in assistance. Since then, leaders have suggested a quicker, easier fix that we fully support: photo identification.

Requiring recipients to show ID wouldn’t eliminate these problems, but would certainly reduce them. The four-digit personal identification numbers currently in use can easily be passed from person to person. A face can’t.”

The newspaper was informed by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services that the federal government will not allow a photo ID provision for FoodShare recipients. Even so, the editorial

says such a requirement makes sense. To prevent fraud, I agree.

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