From House Communications Director David Sorensen
AUGUSTA – House Republican Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) and Assistant Leader Alex Willette (R-Mapelton) held a press conference Thursday to announce the introduction of a compromise amendment to move welfare reform forward.
“Republicans want to implement reforms for the benefit of Maine taxpayers who support our welfare system and the neediest who depend on it,” said Fredette. “We are willing to work with our Democratic colleagues in order to make that happen.”
Fredette’s amendment is to LD 1822, the bill to prohibit welfare funds from being used for tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and posting bail. It would merge all four of Gov. Paul Lepage’s welfare reform proposals. The other three proposals besides L.D. 1822 implement an up-front work search requirement for able-bodied adults seeking benefits, eliminate exceptions to the welfare work search requirement, and prohibit the out-of-state use of benefits.
In addition, Rep. Fredette’s amendment incorporates an idea from Democratic Rep. Matthew Peterson to add smoke shops to the list of vendors prohibited from accepting welfare funds. Finally, Rep. Fredette’s amendment addresses the Democrats’ primary complaint with the Governor’s welfare reform package by maintaining funding for the Parents as Scholars program, which would have been eliminated by the bill to reduce TANF work search exceptions.
“This is a good faith effort at compromise which incorporates Democrats’ ideas while removing a non-starter from the table,” said Fredette. “We understand the Parents as Scholars program is a sore spot for them and are willing to work with them in order to make welfare reform happen.”
“With these welfare reform bills in the news, I’m hearing it especially loudly from people I meet,” said Willette. “Mainers want welfare reform, especially those who are using the programs. They see the abuse firsthand and they’re counting on us to do something about it.”
The welfare bills and Fredette’s amendment are expected to be taken up in the House Thursday afternoon or evening.