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Governor’s Address: Legislators must stay true to their principles

The single most important issue in last November’s election was welfare reform. But legislators didn’t get the message. Instead of “welfare-to-work,” they have created “welfare-to-even-more-welfare.”

Dear Maine Taxpayer,

When I worked at a major retail chain, we’d have promotions to get people in the door and make it easier for them to buy our products. This deal in the Legislature’s budget is like a  clearance sale for welfare benefits: it gets more able-bodied people in the door to sign them up for even more welfare.

Eliminating the welfare cliff to ease people off of welfare is a concept everyone wanted to get behind. But liberals took this common-sense concept and turned it into another way to expand welfare to more people.

I proposed to eliminate the welfare cliff by rewarding the work performed by TANF recipients. In their back-room deal for this budget, legislative leaders stripped out our work provision, making it easier for welfare recipients to stay on the program without working. This will make it nearly impossible for Maine to meet our federal work requirements. The federal government has already fined Maine over $20 million for failing to comply with these requirements.

These legislators have turned the welfare cliff into a plateau, putting able-bodied people on welfare cruise control for years. Our goal is to get more welfare recipients working, but this budget is a step backward.

Our unemployment rate is 4.7%, compared to 8% when I took office. With 10,000 jobs on the Maine Job Bank alone, there are plenty of jobs to go around.

When we enforced the federal work requirement for food stamps, people in rural Maine actually complied with it more than people in urban Maine. It’s not just about jobs; it’s about an attitude.

We have to change the culture from giving lifetime welfare benefits to people who choose not work into a system that expects and enables them to work. Giving people more welfare benefits with no time limit and no work requirement is not going to accomplish that.

Politicians in Augusta must think Mainers have the same work ethic as some of the welfare recipients they are trying to enable. These politicians come to the State House and accomplish nothing for five months. They cram together a budget in secret at the last minute and then complain about staying up late to do the work they didn’t get done since January. But Maine taxpayers have a stronger work ethic than that. We can’t weaken that work ethic with a looser welfare system.

I came here to reform welfare and make it more accountable, and the Maine people sent me back here to keep doing exactly that. This budget does the opposite. I used my authority to line-item veto over $4 million to provide SNAP, TANF and SSI for non-citizens. Legislators put it back in. Increasing welfare increase for non-citizens while 2,000 elderly, disabled and mentally ill Mainers sit on wait lists for medical services is unacceptable.

If you voted for legislators who said they were going to reform welfare, you need to contact them today. They are not listening to you.

Thank You

Paul R. LePage

Governor

 

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