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In 2011, Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., delivered his first inaugural address. He laid out an agenda focused on returning to “frugality in government” and building an economic climate that would create new private-sector jobs. Walker assured everyone that, despite the tough challenges facing the Badger State, Wisconsin was up to the task and would serve as a model for the rest of the nation to follow.

To some, this seemed quaint and naive, given the lingering effects of the economic crisis. But Walker has spent the last six years proving those skeptics wrong.

Walker gained national attention when he took on the unions by signing Act 10 union reform and, ultimately, right-to-work legislation. Even when organized labor mounted a recall on him and his legislative allies, Walker stuck to his principles and survived the recall. He was later re-elected to a second term, all in a state carried twice by President Barack Obama.

Why? He focused on what mattered. He pushed innovative policies that worked. People saw and felt the benefits, in their tax bills as well as in their paychecks.

Wisconsin has cut taxes by more than $4.7 billion. More people are working than ever before and Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate of 68.3 percent is one of the highest in the country.

Walker’s policy priorities have inspired others. Right-to-work laws have already been signed into law in Missouri and Kentucky this year.

Now he’s focusing his attention on another critical yet broken system: welfare.

In the 1990s, Wisconsin recognized the devastating consequences of generations of families living on welfare and being trapped in poverty. So, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, sought new ways to motivate people by making welfare benefits contingent on work and limiting the amount of time someone could remain trapped on welfare. The result? Welfare rolls plummeted, people went to work, and they climbed out of poverty.

These results inspired the bipartisan federal welfare reform in 1996. Congress established work requirements for non-disabled adults without children on food stamps and the results were similar. Food stamp enrollment for this group dropped dramatically and millions went back to work.

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But today, this proven work requirement does not apply to parents on food stamps or to any of the able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid or public housing assistance.

Walker is trying to change that.

As part of his executive budget, Walker is proposing an expansion of work requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children on food stamps. In addition, he calls for extending these work requirements to childless adults on Medicaid and pursuing a pilot program to implement work requirement for able-bodied adults in public housing.

Walker’s reforms would counteract a wave of increased dependency and poverty. These work requirements would reinforce the idea that, to interrupt the generational cycle of poverty, able-bodied parents need to model work and not dependence.

Research published by the Foundation for Government Accountability found that after more than 40,000 childless adults on food stamps were faced with work requirements, record numbers went to work, their average incomes doubled and their income gains more than offset their lost welfare benefits.

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The next few years present a historic opportunity to advance welfare reform in states and in Washington. Replicating his leadership on labor reforms, tax cuts, and spending decreases, Walker is again inspiring fellow governors, state legislators, Congress and the president to make real changes to the broken welfare system.

Tarren Bragdon is president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Government Accountability.

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

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