Walker Plan to Save Wisconsin up to $5.4 Million in Phone Costs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 27, 2010 Contact: Jill Bader (414) 453-2010 Email: Twitter: @JillBader

Walker Plan to Save Wisconsin up to $5.4 Million in Phone Costs

Wauwatosa – Scott Walker, Milwaukee County executive and candidate for governor, today at a Brown Bag Lunch at Monterey Mills in Janesville, announced his plan to save up to $5.4 million for taxpayers by ending the state subsidy for free phones for welfare recipients.  Scott’s plan is the latest in a series of “Brown Bag Ideas” that Scott is announcing across the state to cut Wisconsin taxes and spending.

“Smaller government is better government, and it’s time our leaders in Madison found ways to do more, with less,” said Walker.  “It’s not right that hard working Wisconsin families who are struggling to pay their bills are also forced to pay the phone bill for someone else.  We’ve got to account for every penny of taxpayer money we spend, and giving away free phones to as many as 500,000 people has the potential to rack up a $5.4 million cell phone bill to the taxpayers.  That’s just unacceptable.”

Walker explained that currently the federal government’s free phone program allows low-income individuals to apply for discounted phones and $15 a month phone use, but the State of Wisconsin goes further than other states by supplementing the additional costs of the phones.  With this additional money, taxpayers foot the bill for approximately $10 a month per person in additional charges.  Eliminating this program saves an immediate $1.4 million per year for the taxpayers and averts spending as much as $5.4 million.  Under Walker’s proposal, low-income Wisconsin residents can still apply for the discounted phones, but the state will no longer provide the additional funding to make them completely free.

Walker concluded, “It’s time we brought a little of what I call ‘brown bag common sense’ to Madison when it comes to what we’re spending."

Scott’s Plan:

  • With the state facing a $2.5 billion budget deficit, we have to tighten our belts everywhere we can.
  • With so many people looking for work, we simply cannot afford to be handing out free cell phones to as many as 500,000 Wisconsinites.
  • There are currently 72,000 people enrolled in the Lifeline program for landlines, and there are more than 500,000 Wisconsinites eligible.
  • Now that the program is being expanded to cell phones, enrollment is likely to increase significantly.
  • Eliminating this program saves an immediate $1.4 million per year and averts spending as much as $5.4 million if all eligible customers applied.


  • SafeLink Wireless service will provide eligible recipients a free cell phone, mobile access to emergency services and free 60 minutes of airtime monthly for one year.  The cell phone offers in-demand features like voicemail, text, call-waiting, caller ID, and international calling to over 60 destinations.[1]
  • This is part of a federal program called Lifeline, begun in 1984 by the FCC.
  • Wisconsin pays the portion of telephone service charges exceeding $15 per month for low-income individuals.[2]
  • Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission estimates that it will have to provide $8.50 to $10 per month for eligible persons.[3]
  • SafeLink estimates that 547,349 customers are eligible in Wisconsin.1
  • If all eligible recipients sign-up, the cost to taxpayers will be $4.6 to $5.4 million.
  • There are 72,000 current enrollees for land lines costing $1.4 million per year.[4]

[1] SafeLink Press Release, August 24, 2009

[2] WI Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Taxation and Regulation of Public Utilities Informational Paper, p. 19

[3] Wisconsin Public Service Commission, Lifeline & Link-Up

[4] WI Public Service Commission, Universal Service Fund Report, p. 27

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