Last month, Governor Paul LePage received a letter from the U.S. Department of Commerce requesting his cooperation in turning over classified information on Maine’s welfare program recipients, allowing the federal government to gain “access to data from your state’s food assistance, family assistance and welfare programs.”
But don’t worry, they promise to take good care of our confidential information with rigorous privacy laws that are “among the most stringent in the nation.” Given recent events, we clearly have nothing to be concerned about, as violators will face steep fines of “up to $250,000…and/or up to five years in prison, per violation.”
LePage’s response, dated August 5, is worthy of a mic drop.
In his letter, LePage said that “This is a bold request, considering almost every request Maine makes of the federal government is denied and our efforts at reform are generally met with a resounding ‘no.’ The Obama administration has been reflexively obstructionist in its dealings with Maine, particularly as they relate to our welfare programs, and now it expects cooperation with a request of its own regarding our welfare programs. It is important for President Obama and the entire federal government to know: states don’t work for you. Our relationship is a two-way street.
He goes on to site specific times that the federal government has threatened to pull funding for the food stamp program or stood in our way as his administration worked to ensure the integrity of our welfare programs through important reforms such as putting photo identification on Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, implementing time limits, work requirements, asset tests, stricter fraud penalties, to name a few.
So, Secretary Pritzker, “To answer your question, I will absolutely not be directing Maine’s welfare program directors to enter into a data-sharing agreement with your staff for the purposes outlined in your letter. I will, however, share with you a few other numbers for your Census. From 2010 to 2015, food stamp enrollment nationally increased from 40.3 million to 45.8 million. In Maine, food stamp enrollment decreased from 241,445 when I was first elected in November 2010 to 194,735 last month.
The federal government may judge the success of the food stamp program by how many people are on it, but here in Maine, we judge success based on the number of people we move off of it.”
Good for you, Governor.
While the mainstream media posts article after article criticizing LePage and his administration for the bold actions he has taken to put this state back on financially-stable ground, I am left wondering how we will ever find someone worthy to replace him.