AUGUSTA - Democratic lawmakers on the Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday voted on party lines against Governor Paul R. LePage's comprehensive welfare reform bill, LD 1375.
Republicans on the panel supported the measure, which would require able-bodied welfare applicants to apply for jobs before receiving benefits; eliminate loopholes to the current work requirement; ban the out of state use of Maine cash welfare benefits; and prohibit their expenditure on alcohol, tobacco, gambling, bail, and tattoos.
"To say that able-bodied, working-age adults shouldn't have to look for work before looking for welfare and that they should be able to buy liquor and cigarettes with welfare money is a slap in the face to Maine taxpayers who work hard to provide these benefits and expect that they will be used appropriately," said Governor LePage. "Even after Mainers made their priorities clear last November, Democratic politicians have proven once again that they are simply too out of touch to govern effectively. I sincerely hope that their colleagues on the floor listen to Maine people and pass this commonsense legislation."
The bill is similar to legislation that the Governor introduced last year, but which failed in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. This year, Republicans control the Maine Senate and made significant gains in the House.
"One welfare dollar misspent is one dollar too many, and every dollar wasted is a dollar taken from a child in need," said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. "We will never truly be able to reform Maine's welfare programs until we have the support of lawmakers in both parties, and today was a major setback in that effort. Only when we change the culture of welfare abuse and generational dependency can we truly move Mainers from poverty to prosperity and strengthen Maine for decades to come."