Real reform

To the Editor:

There’s a reason why welfare reform is in the news. Mainers are sick and tired of feeling taken advantage of by healthy, working-age people who abuse and even defraud the welfare system while many people work two or three jobs just to stay ahead and our elderly and disabled loved ones are relegated to waiting lists and underfunded programs. No matter how much the liberal politicians and pundits try to downplay welfare fraud and abuse, Mainers see it for themselves at the supermarket, at the convenience store and in the hospital.

A loose welfare system that’s been overrun by able-bodied young adults has several consequences. First, it burdens the state budget, leading to tax increases and money being diverted from other important programs. Second, it perpetuates a culture of dependency and entitlement, stifling Maine’s workforce and holding back our economy. Third, it leaves seniors and disabled people on waitlists or in under-funded nursing homes with nowhere to turn.

When Governor Paul LePage was elected to office, Maine ranked third in the nation for the number of households on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cash welfare assistance. Maine ranked second for the number of households receiving food stamps, and Maine had the third-highest number of residents enrolled in Medicaid.

Maine state government’s welfare expenditures ranked second in the nation as a percentage of overall state expenditures.

After Democrats rejected all of the Republican welfare reform measures in the legislature, Gov. LePage used his executive authority to enact reforms to DHHS administratively where he could.

During the Baldacci Administration, Maine sought and received a waiver from the federal requirement that able-bodied welfare recipients work, volunteer or go to school. Gov. LePage announced in July that his administration would not seek an extension of that waiver, a move that still must go through a rule-making process.

Gov. LePage announced in June that he would be withholding state welfare funds from municipalities that refuse to follow federal law by verifying legal residency before handing out General Assistance welfare benefits. This is an extension of his first act as governor, which was to sign an executive order rescinding Maine’s “sanctuary state” status.

Welfare reform is a critical part of trimming government spending, freeing people from intergenerational poverty and moving Maine’s economy forward. Democratic politicians have made clear their opposition to reform efforts. They created the status quo, and they have fought to preserve it. The only way Maine’s welfare system will continue to see true reform is if we re-elect Governor Paul LePage.

Getting supporters of welfare reform out to vote is a crucial part of that effort, and that’s why the Maine Republican Party has established seven field offices where volunteers can identify supporters and later help get them out to vote on election day.

David Sorensen

Communications Director

Maine Republican Party