AUGUSTA – Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage said Tuesday that he plans to reintroduce two pieces of welfare reform Democrats on the Legislative Council rejected in October as well as a third major reform.
In his weekly radio address, LePage blasted “liberal politicians” whom he accused of ignoring Maine’s dysfunctional welfare system.
“No matter how hard they try, they cannot hide the fact that Maine’s welfare system is too big, too expensive and too easy to abuse,” said LePage.
The governor said he plans to introduce two bills originally sponsored by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport). Both bills were rejected with party line votes by Democrat-controlled Legislative Council.
“We will submit legislation that would require those asking for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to show that they applied for three jobs before seeking TANF welfare benefits,” said LePage. He said this requirement is for able-bodied applicants who have no extenuating circumstances, such as disabilities, that prevent them from being able to work immediately.
“We will also submit legislation that eliminates or amends exceptions to the requirement that TANF recipients must participate in ASPIRE work-search programs,” said LePage. This bill is intended to tighten up the various exceptions some TANF recipients have used to avoid job-training programs offered through ASPIRE. “When able-bodied people receive welfare from the taxpayers, they must be looking for work,” he said.
The third bill the governor will introduce will prevent Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards, the cards that carry the balance of a benefit recipients welfare funds, from being used to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, and lottery scratch tickets. The bill would also place geographic restrictions on the use of EBT card funds.
Fredette praised LePage for fighting for welfare reform despite Democratic Majorities that seem intent on blocking reform.
“These are commonsense reforms of the kind that Maine people are crying out for,” said Fredette. “Mainers work hard to provide a helping hand for our neediest neighbors and we owe it to them to ensure that their help is going to the people who need it and not those who are able to help themselves.”
“Governor LePage has done more to reform welfare than any other governor in modern Maine history,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, however, to break the cycle of intergenerational dependency, and I am asking my Democratic colleagues to join us in this effort.”