Welfare Reform in Doubt Following Vote in Maine House of Representatives

AUGUSTA – In an apparent rebuff of the voters’ wishes for welfare reform that led to major gains for Republicans in the Maine Legislature, Democrats in the Maine House last night voted along party lines against a bill that would have brought comprehensive changes to Maine’s welfare system.

The legislation, LD 1375 “An Act to Increase Accountability in Maine’s Welfare Programs,” is a governor’s bill sponsored by Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo). Among the reforms it includes are:

  • A work search requirement for those who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • A prohibition on TANF recipients using benefits for tobacco, liquor, gambling, tattoos, and bail
  • A prohibition on TANF recipients using their EBT cards to access benefits outside of Maine

The vote in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives was 76-68, mostly along party lines.

The Republican-controlled Maine Senate approved LD 1375 earlier this month.

“I am extremely disappointed and quite frankly surprised,” said Senate President Thibodeau. “Voters sent a clear message to all of us last fall that they wanted Maine’s welfare system reformed. They’ve had enough of the abuse and they’ve had enough of the inaction from their government.

“These were commonsense reforms that were designed to protect the social safety net for those who truly need it. How Democrats in the Legislature could reject them is beyond me.”

LD 1375 will likely die now that it is in non-concurrence between the Senate and House of Representatives.