Op-Ed: Governor Evers ‘ghosts’ Wisconsin’s chance to be a national workforce reform leader | Wisconsin

Walk down any main street in Wisconsin and you’ll see “Now Hiring” signs populating the windows of businesses in every sector of our economy. Whether it’s the KwikTrip corner looking for extra clerks or the local factory offering on-the-job training, there are plenty of jobs available for anyone who wants and can work.

According to state estimates, more than 400,000 workers will be needed in the coming year to fill new jobs and replace workers leaving the workforce due to retirement or migration. Republican lawmakers recently passed a package of bills that would have made Wisconsin a national leader in workforce reform, addressing critical worker shortages and implementing necessary updates to the unemployment insurance system.

Unfortunately, Governor Tony Evers chose to veto each proposal, preferring to spur inflation by doling out hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants to address labor issues that threaten long-term economic health. state term.

Wisconsin’s demographic challenges make it even more important to prioritize workforce reforms that incentivize work. The state labor force participation rate has steadily declined since the mid-1990s. And in the past decade alone, the number of working-age adults able to enter the labor market employment remained stable, while the number of residents over the age of 60 increased by 23.5%. Without a steady supply of new workers, it is even more important that those who can work find jobs and contribute to the economy.

To address the labor shortage, lawmakers sought to bring the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) into the 21st century, making it a role model for other states and , most importantly, an effective agency that helps Wisconsin workers and employers maximize everyone’s potential. .

A bill opposed by Governor Evers, AB 883, would have increased job search requirements for people receiving unemployment benefits. The bill also proposed proactive measures to match unemployed workers with hiring companies that need their skills and experience.

Another victim of the veto, AB 937, would have indexed the duration of unemployment benefits to the economic conditions of the moment. When the economy is good and jobs are plentiful, benefits will be available for a shorter duration. But if the economy is sluggish and the labor market is relatively short of jobs, the duration of benefits will increase to account for the time it would take to find a new job. States that have implemented this indexing model have seen job seekers return to work almost twice as quickly as states – like Wisconsin – that use the old fixed-term model.

Finally, Governor Evers vetoed a pair of bills (AB 938, AB 939) that would have increased DWD audits of weekly job search reports filed by unemployed individuals and banned “ghost” interviews. – when people receiving benefits seem to carry out a weekly job search. requirements but fail to show up for scheduled interviews. These are two common-sense propositions that ensure that unemployment benefits go to those who need them most: the unemployed looking for work.

There are clear, ready-made solutions to Wisconsin’s workforce problems, and the Legislature has attempted to employ those solutions with clarity about what really matters: the people, families, and communities that depend on them. Doing partisan politics with the veto pen in an election year or driving inflation by spending hundreds of millions of federal dollars on low-impact ideas doesn’t help family restaurants keep doors open or single mothers to foot the light bill.

Republican lawmakers should be commended for their innovative solutions to solving our state’s labor shortage. Hopefully they bring those ideas back next session — and maybe by then we’ll have a governor interested in solving the serious problems facing our state.

Brian Sikma is a visiting researcher at the Opportunity Solutions project.

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