Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage will introduce welfare reform legislation in January that bears resemblance to sweeping reforms enacted in the Netherlands.
As the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner writes in his Dec. 17 article, Lessons from Dutch Welfare Reform, “Welfare advocates regularly urge Americans to look to the European welfare state as a model. At least in the case of the Netherlands, they might be on to something.”
According to Tanner, the Dutch have recently announced a sweeping welfare reform aimed at reducing government dependency and encouraging work: “For example, welfare applicants will now be required to prove that they spent at least 4 weeks actively searching for a job before they become eligible for any assistance. And once they begin to receive benefits they will either have to work or perform volunteer community service. Dutch welfare recipients would be required to take available jobs even if they had to move or commute up to three hours per day.”
The Dutch reforms followed a widely panned speech in which King Willem-Alexander told his country that the “classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century” was over. He said the Dutch welfare state, among the most egalitarian in Europe, was “unsustainable.”
The LePage administration’s welfare reform bill was originally introduced by House Majority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport), but Democrats in control of the Legislative Council rejected it from consideration in the 2nd regular session.
The Republican reforms are far less onerous than the Dutch reforms, but also includes a front-end work search requirement. The bill would require welfare seekers to apply to three jobs prior to applying for public assistance — a regulation on the books in many other states.
LePage’s bill includes no mandated community service.