December 12, 2019
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LePage to unveil new welfare reform bill packed with old initiatives

Mario Moretto | BDN
Mario Moretto | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage broadcasts his welfare reform message on a TV installed in a transom window in his office on Dec. 12, 2013, in Augusta. LePage’s office announced Friday that the governor will detail a “comprehensive” welfare reform bill during a news conference on Monday.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage announced Friday afternoon that he will dust off some of the social services reforms he has tried and failed to implement in the past.

LePage’s office announced about 5 p.m. Friday that the governor will detail a “comprehensive” welfare reform bill during a news conference on Monday at the State House. His communications staff could not be reached for comment minutes later.

According to the release, LePage’s bill will include the following initiatives:

— Preventing the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits for the purchase of alcohol, tobacco products, lottery sales and bail.

— Prohibiting TANF recipients from using cash benefits cards to access TANF benefits outside Maine.

— Requiring job-ready TANF applicants to look for three jobs before receiving cash benefits.

— Strengthening penalties for people who abuse the system.

All of these initiatives have been pushed by LePage before, and some of them were included in proposed legislation that failed during the past two years, largely because of opposition from Democrats who argued that they were unnecessary or unfairly targeted low-income Mainers.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick said in a written statement that he is receptive to debating the governor’s ideas, which he hopes will build on “Ticket to work” legislation he led to passage in 2013.

“We are looking forward to finding common ground with the governor on welfare reform,” he said. “Our focus will be on making sure struggling families can get the help they need to get back on their feet again.”

However, welfare reform has proven to be a winning political issue for LePage, who campaigned for his second term on promises to continue his push to tighten restrictions on Mainers who apply for or receive public assistance.

Days after his re-election, LePage pledged during an interview with the Bangor Daily News that he would revive welfare proposals that failed during his first term.

The governor will be joined at Monday’s event by Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport.

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