By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — As Gov. Tony Evers’ mess at the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) continues, yet another lawmaker wants answers about the state’s licensing crisis.
State Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) says his office has been contacted by 35 professionals in his 24th Assembly District over the past year, each waiting months for DSPS to process their professional license applications. Their stories are similar to others who have complained about a backlog two years in the making.
“In most of these cases, DSPS cashed their checks immediately and then proceeded to take no action for months on end,” Knodl said. “These hardworking individuals are trying to make a living but are being prevented by this government entity just because these bureaucrats are unable to figure out how to do their job effectively.”
The legislator said the bureaucratic bumbling is inexcusable in a severe workforce shortage, when “we need every able-bodied worker we can have.”
In November, there were an estimated 209,000 jobs unfilled in the Badger State, according to the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number accounted for about 6.7% of all jobs. There were 226,000 job openings statewide in May, the latest data available.
Not helping the labor shortage is a licensing agency breakdown that Dennis Kaster, president of the American Physical Therapy Association, said “is creating chaos.”
Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Safety and Professional Services has been sharply criticized by lawmakers who want to know why untold numbers of Wisconsin’s licensed professionals have been forced to wait months for their credentials to be processed, in particular professionals on the front lines of Wisconsin’s health and mental health care crises. Evers has said little publicly on the backlog, and emails show he’s had limited contact with DSPS officials regarding the license crisis.
“For the last year, constituents looking to keep or fill jobs in an already tight labor market were ignored by the DSPS,” State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said after sending a letter to the agency demanding answers. “They wait on hold for hours and end up getting dumped to voice mail. Often their checks were cashed months before they received an answer on why their license was still on hold. This is unacceptable.”
Evers’ team has blamed a lack of funding for the delays, an argument debunked by the record.
“Millions of dollars have been doled out to the DSPS –and other agencies – to improve staffing and technology. In the past two budgets, over 10 new positions have been added for Professional Trade and Regulation and over $10 million was allocated for IT upgrades and online licensing,” Knodl said.
Legislative committees are now looking into the credentialing debacle.
“These agencies hold a lot of power in our state and they need to be held accountable if they are not living up to our expectations,” Knodl said. We need a strong leader who can effectively administer these runaway agencies and help Wisconsinites get the tools they need to succeed.”