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Committee approves more reforms in Wisconsin Shares

A Wisconsin committee voted unanimously yesterday to stop criminals from working in child care centers and to make government employees report the fraud and abuse they catch.

Both measures are designed to clean up the Wisconsin Shares' tax-funded child care program for the working poor.

On a 15-0 vote, the Joint Finance Committee OK'd a package of reforms that require background checks for child care providers at least four times a year - ban those convicted of serious crimes from the Wisconsin Shares program - and protect those who uncover fraud from lawsuits by providers.

Care providers would have their licenses suspended if they're charged with serious crimes, and revoked if they're convicted.

One news report earlier this week said some providers feared losing their care licenses if their teens get charged with unrelated minor offenses, just because they live in the same building.

The panel rejected efforts by Republicans to spend a million dollars on fraud prevention measures. Democrats said the money was not needed, because many counties had not spent their entire state allotments in the program.

Audits and newspaper reviews found that millions in fraudulent payments went to child care providers in Wisconsin Shares, criminals were getting state funds, and sex offenders were living in a handful of care facilities.

Last month, lawmakers allowed the state to recover fraudulent state payments from centers which go out of business, by making their owners personally liable. The full Legislature is scheduled to act on the latest reforms Thursday, the final day both houses will meet this year.