Wisconsin Seeking More Control Under Trump Administration

Dec 21, 2016

Wisconsin is asking federal lawmakers for more control. Gov. Walker on Tuesday addressed a letter to President-elect Donald Trump asking for more flexibility in administering federal programs. 

For instance, Walker wants to drug test people who apply for Food Share benefits and control the number of certain refugees allowed to settle in the state. Walker says the changes would help the citizens of Wisconsin.              

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative think tank, has been encouraging the state to consider how many rules the federal government attaches to its programs. President of the organization, Rick Esenberg says he favors competitive federalism - taking some control over programs and rule-making authority away from the federal government and putting it in the hands of states.

“It’s not simply a matter of states’ rights, it’s a matter of recognizing that our constitution reserved certain authority to the national government and certain authority to the state government,” he says.

Esenberg says over the years, the balance of power has shifted making states the junior partners of the national government. He says it taxes state residents, but when it gives the money back in the form of programs, it often attaches strings.

“So if you want federal highway funds, you have to raise your drinking age to 21. There are all sorts of things that you must do in exchange for receiving these funds,” he says.

Esenberg also mentions education. “The discipline of students or the processing of sexual assault claims on campus or the treatment of transgender students. The issue here is not simply whether we like what the federal government has decreed, the issue is that it’s the federal government that has decreed it,” he says.

Esenberg says states are supposed to be laboratories of democracy, and that what works in California may not work in Wisconsin or New York.

“When we call states the laboratories of democracy, I’m guessing that the next four years are going to be a laboratory for conservative democracy,” Mordecai Lee says. He's a political science professor at UW-Milwaukee.

Lee says if you’re a conservative, you likely believe the federal government has been over reaching for years and adding capricious rules and regulations. But some people might have a different perspective.

“If you’re in the field of social welfare, or if you care about hunger let’s say, then you want to be sure that federal money that flows to states gets spent exactly for the purposes intended. And that whatever party may be in power in a certain state government would not be able to exclude let’s say certain people from accessing the benefits of a program,” he says.

Lee says he expects the next four years to be an experiment in how states and people fare with less regulation.