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Rep. Mel Newendyke (R-Litchfield)
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For Immediate Release

Date: 06/26/13

Dem Leadership Rejects Bipartisan Welfare Reform Proposal

Study sought ways to streamline Maine's broken welfare system

AUGUSTA - The Maine Legislature's Legislative Council—the panel of all 10 members of legislative leadership—on Wednesday evening rejected a welfare reform study proposal with broad, bipartisan support. The vote came as the Council was sorting through which study proposals to fund and which to reject.

The bill, LD 1064, "Resolve, To Establish the Task Force on Independence from Public Assistance," was sponsored by Rep. Melvin Newendyke (R-Litchfield) and cosponsored by a broad array of lawmakers, including 16 Democrats. Nonetheless, the Democrat-led Legislative Council rejected the study on party lines with a vote of 6-3.

Newendyke's bill established a 13-member task force—including seven lawmakers, three gubernatorial appointees, and three social services experts appointed by the Senate President and House Speaker—to "identify provisions in current state policy, law and rules that penalize or create a disincentive to work and make recommendations on how to eliminate those barriers." It required further that all recommendations be evidence-based. The Task Force on Independence from Public Assistance would have been required to meet as a group eight times and report their findings to the legislature's Health and Human Services Committee by December 4, 2013.

"Of all the studies to be rejected, I was stunned to see Democratic leadership reject this commonsense measure to reduce welfare dependency," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "This proposal would not have delivered an across the board cut of welfare services; it would have simply refined the system to eliminate the kind of incentives that make people choose welfare over work, and we all know Maine could benefit from that."

The Legislative Council considered 18 study proposals, approving eight of them, including a proposal to study long-term care facilities and another to study health care financing. The welfare dependency task force came with an estimated $7,500 price tag, yet other study proposals also came with a multi-thousand dollar price tag but were passed nonetheless with a much lower budget.

"It's routine for study bills to be reworked and given a budget much less than their initial request or estimate," said Assistant House Republican Leader Alexander Willette of Mapleton. "Practically all of the studies we considered today had revised budgets that brought them to a fraction of their original cost. There's no reason why we couldn't have approved funding for this bill. This vote shows clearly that Democrats care more about maintaining the welfare status quo than creating opportunity for Mainers trapped by dependency."

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Maine House Republicans
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