We find ourselves this week agreeing with the governor on much of his welfare reform package.

Maine has long been generous when it comes to welfare benefits. We’re ranked second in food stamp enrollment, third for availability of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash benefits, according to the conservative Maine Hertitage Policy Center. Our per-capita welfare participation is very high.

We can debate whether generosity — or just the persistently lousy state of the Maine economy — is to blame for a stubbornly high welfare roll. The truth is it’s hard to get a job when you don’t possess the skills a new economy demands and there aren’t many jobs to begin with.

So no one disputes the crux of Maine’s welfare challenge: More needs to be done to coax able-bodied Mainers into an economy that’s been bad for decades and is rapidly changing in terms of what it demands of workers.

Among LePage’s proposals:

— Require “job-ready” Mainers seeking TANF aid to document three job applications before seeking assistance — a rule in place in 19 other states, including Vermont, and one similar to existing rules for unemployment benefits.

— Stiffen penalties for beneficiaries who fail to participate in job retraining.

— Limit where recipients can spend benefits via EBT cards to stop buys of booze, cigarettes and scratch tickets.

Some of LePage’s measures to move people from welfare to work appear — on the surface — to be working. The number of Maine households receiving TANF dropped by more than 3,000 in the first half of 2012 — in part because Le- Page adopted a federal 60-month Clinton administration time limit that Maine had previously been one of only seven states to ignore.

But the economy was in recovery in 2012, so it’s hard to say whether tighter rules or a rising tide lifted those 3,000 boats out of the gulf of welfare.

We assume these people found jobs. We’re also guessing those were low-wage service jobs — the only type the Maine economy seems capable of producing. So it should be asked whether public assistance may yet be needed to assist people even after they leave welfare to join Maine’s low-wage economy.

Yes, there’s every reason to pressure people receiving benefits to be an active partner in their prosperity. And the TANF time limit is based on a solid premise: Five years is enough for recipients to find work, with extensions available for hardships.

The key is whether there are quality jobs for people moved off welfare. So far, there’s scant evidence there are.

We can applaud measures that push people off welfare rolls, but more — much more — needs to be done to create gainful work. We remain concerned that the emphasis on cutting welfare rolls is misguided if there’s no place for these people to go, and that many of these people will simply be back on the dole after opening their first, meager paychecks.

Maine’s skills gap is not unique to the nation but it’s been painful to watch play out. In the teeth of the Great Recession, plenty of tech jobs went unfilled even as the jobless rate skyrocketed.

Limiting welfare benefits might make us feel good. And it should motivate recipients. But it’s not a cure-all.

So the question remains: How are we going to retrain workers for a new economy? LePage’s plans announced Tuesday — particularly the job retraining requirement — offer a start at addressing it.

Led by Democrats, lawmakers twice rejected two of the proposals last session. Progressives who truly care about welfare recipients should trade modest new benefit limits for money to fund retraining programs that offer hard-toemploy workers a hand up.

As our new state senator, Eloise Vitelli has been a central player in designing job training programs for the underemployed. We look to her proven creativity and leadership in this area to move her caucus toward a compromise that trades sensible limits on benefits for robust new initiatives to equip Mainers with employable job skills.

Finding suitable work for Mainers is Job One in solving our welfare puzzle.