By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Over the past two weeks, in the spirit of transparent government, I have kept readers informed of my comings and goings in a sharply focused Mayors’ Coalition and the Halls of Confusion known as the Maine State House.
I owe my readers an apology. I was so wrapped up in the welfare issue that I incorrectly referred to it as “welfare reform.” The truth is that it was nothing more than a combination of a cost shift and enforcement of the rules governing TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families.)
To a person with average intelligence, the rules governing TANF are understandably simple. The program runs for up to five years, during which the participant is expected to participate in job training and academics, allowing them to obtain employment and become self-sufficient.
Seems simple, right? Apparently not, if you’re a boo-hoo progressive legislator whose definition of temporary equals infinity.
Governor Paul LePage made a promise to Mainers to enforce welfare rules. Unfortunately, in the case of TANF, the Legislature failed to bring forward a bill that would have exempted Maine communities from having to pick up and support those coming off TANF, thus making this not reform but a cost shift. It must also be noted that the aforementioned bill died a unanimous death in committee, never seeing the light of the legislative floor.
To the Governor and the Legislature: we want real welfare reform. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with it, step aside and we’ll elect people with the courage to tackle and resolve this problem. As November approaches, rhetoric must be replaced with legislative bills that tackle these problems head on.
Any legislator heard speaking the word “anecdotal” must be removed from office. Any candidate speaking that same word must be assured defeat.
It is also time for the general tax-paying public to take their coffee shop opinions to the public arena. Pay attention to what those running for office say, and check their past actions and statements to evaluate their real stance on the issues.
The time for finger pointing, double talk and smoke and mirrors has passed. It is time for our elected legislators to be enlightened to the real Maine, as seen by we who are not burrowed deeply in the State House.
It is recommended that the following be addressed immediately:
1. Create a state website listing the names, addresses and the state program in which each recipient of welfare benefits is enrolled. Providing this information would make those thinking of scamming the system vulnerable to discovery. It also expands enforcement with the public’s involvement. When you apply and accept public funds, you give up any expectation of privacy.
2. How much fraud and misuse will be committed by those possessing EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards? It’s time to put the recipient’s photograph on the card. It is also time to create Draconian changes with respect to the use of the card. Cigarettes, liquor and the ability to obtain cash for uses other than intended should stop immediately.
3. It’s time for residency requirements. Why should Maine taxpayers be forced to support the indigent or the lazy of other states? Anyone moving to Maine who leaves a venue where they were already collecting welfare benefits should be denied benefits.
4. Anyone caught defrauding the system should be barred from collecting Maine state welfare for the rest of their lives.
5. Welfare is not a way of life, but a system established to provide temporary relief to get those in need over the hump and back on their feet. Strict time limits should be established and enforced.
This is true welfare reform.
Presenting this in Augusta will cause you to be bloodied by public advocates. When they come before your legislative committee about the proposed “unfair cuts,” ask them the following three questions:
1. What is your salary?
2. What is your benefit package?
3. What is your organization’s budget?
This will help you in evaluating the veracity of their testimony.
Presenting this in Augusta will cause you to be bloodied by the media for your insensitivity.
Presenting this in Augusta, you will be bloodied and threatened with legal actions by groups like the ACLU and Equal Justice Maine. They exist primarily to remake our society. If you allow them to dictate new welfare rules, it will become apparent to the taxpayers of this state that we no longer need a state government.
Over the summer perhaps you should research our country’s history in the year 1774. Unlike the speculation over the Mayan calendar, your research might actually predict your immediate future.