Welfare reform compromise fails again

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The welfare debate continued to dominate business in Augusta on Tuesday, with prospects for compromise seeming unlikely.

Late on Monday, Democrats tried a compromise about those controversial EBT cards. The Democratic plan used what was a Republican idea from the Governor: prohibit using cash from EBT cards for buying cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets or paying for a prisoner's bail.

But Republicans voted against it, saying the penalties in the new version of the bill were too weak. Republicans want immediate suspension of TANF benefits for those who violate an EBT law, with the length of suspension increasing for any repeat offenses.

Democrats have proposed having EBT card users sign a "contract" to show they're aware of the law, then a warning for the first offense. They, too, would have benefit suspensions for repeat offenders.

Republicans say they want a law "with teeth in it", while Democrats say they "don't want to crucify" first-time violators. The bill passed on a party-line vote, and headed to the House, where its fate isn't clear. The House defeated a similar amendment last week.

Three other welfare reform measures from the Governor were defeated in the Senate, and now appear to be dead. However, Gov. Paul LePage has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to once again urge legislators to support welfare reform.

Each party claimed on Tuesday it is pushing for meaningful change, while the other is playing politics with the welfare issue.


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