AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Legislature starts work on Wednesday, and one of the biggest issues for debate will be welfare.
Lawmakers will again be asked to expand the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income people. They will also debate a series of proposals to put more restrictions on other welfare programs.
According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 320,000 Mainers get some form of assistance from Medicaid now. Thousands of families receive help with food and rent through the TANF and SNAP programs. Democratic leaders say the state needs to continue helping those people so they can find work and eventually get off of welfare. Republican leaders say the state has too large a program now, and needs to make changes.
The differences are being made more clear-cut than ever, in part because 2014 is an election year, with both the Governor's office and control of the Legislature up for grabs. Speaker of the House Rep. Mark Eves says he believes there is room for compromise on some of the welfare issues. Republican House leader Rep. Ken Fredette disagrees, saying the divide between the parties on the welfare issue is too great.