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State takes over running Milwaukee County's aid programs

A state official says Wisconsin's largest county has failed for years in running its own programs for the poor so Madison will do it for them.

In an unprecedented move, state health services secretary Karen Timberlake said Tuesday that her agency will manage Milwaukee County's medical assistance, child care, and food aid programs.

State and federal aid pays almost all the costs - and county executive Scott Walker blames the state for under funding them.

But Timberlake says it's the county's performance that's lacking with things like unfair denials of benefits, and long delays for approvals.

She said her agency has spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours showing county workers how to get the job done and they still haven't done it.

In a slow phase-in, the state will manage Milwaukee County aid programs by next January, and the county will keep providing the actual case workers.

But Walker wanted a total state takeover. He said it would be cheaper due to the state's lower employee pension costs.

Walker said using both state and county personnel would "stick it" to county taxpayers. And he wants the county to challenge the move.

County Supervisor Peggy West says Madison's not so perfect. She points to the failings of the state's Child Welfare Bureau, after a foster aunt allegedly killed 13-month-old Christopher Thomas in Milwaukee last November. A former director was transferred and the state promised reforms.