Already reforming



To the Editor:

I would like to address independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler’s roll-out of a welfare reform plan.

He is proposing some decent ideas here; the problem is that Gov. Paul LePage has already implemented most of them. On welfare reform, the race has reached an interesting dynamic where Mr. Cutler wants to reform the system, Gov. LePage is reforming it already, and Congressman Mike Michaud (the Democratic candidate), doesn’t seem to even acknowledge there’s a problem.

Mr. Cutler’s support of Gov. LePage’s commonsense welfare reforms shows this is an issue the vast majority of Mainers, regardless of ideology, agree needs to be addressed. Virtually everybody in Maine except for Congressman Michaud and Democrats in Augusta want welfare reform.

Many of the following proposals from Mr. Cutler are the same as, or similar to, those already implemented or proposed by Gov. LePage and Republicans.

Prohibit purchases of alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets.

Gov. LePage introduced this measure, but it was watered down and stripped of penalties by Democratic lawmakers (LD 1822). Further, Gov. LePage banned the use of EBT cards at liquor stores, gambling facilities and adult entertainment facilities.

Promote a tiered reduction in welfare.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette and Republican Rep. Mel Newendyke each proposed bills to enact this reform, but majority Democratic lawmakers killed both of them.

Turbocharge TANF assessments.

Maine’s DHHS under the LePage Administration has already begun administering TANF assessments to move recipients from welfare to work.

Make education pay.

By making Maine the 44th state to cap TANF at five years, the LePage Administration cut the TANF rolls in half and used some of the savings to strengthen job and education programs at the Departments of Labor and Education.

Link public assistance to family responsibility.

Gov. LePage and Republican lawmakers in 2011 imposed strict sanctions for people who violate TANF rules, including a termination of benefits for adults on the first offense and a full family sanction for the second offense. This year, Gov. LePage is requiring able-bodied welfare recipients to volunteer, work or go to school as a condition of receiving benefits, and he is implementing drug testing for recipients convicted of a drug-related felony.

Improve accountability at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Gov. LePage cut unnecessary staff positions at DHHS, hired eight new welfare fraud investigators, implemented a new policy to ensure private insurance is used before Medicaid, consolidated offices within the Department, made the unauthorized transfer or possession of EBT cards a Class D crime, conformed Maine law to federal requirements regarding suspension of payments to MaineCare providers upon determination of a credible allegation of fraud, and more.

Rick Bennett

Chairman

Maine Republican Party

Augusta