Gov. Paul LePage says he will once again push for welfare reform, even though most of his proposals to change the system were defeated last year.

LePage said he plans to introduce a measure Monday that would ban those getting benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from buying alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets with money from the program or to use the money to post bail. He also wants to prohibit using TANF cards out of state, require most TANF recipients to apply for three jobs before getting welfare benefits and strengthen penalties for those abusing the system.

LePage pushed similar reform measures last year and the state Senate, controlled at the time by Democrats, passed a watered-down version of his reform package.

However, most of LePage’s proposals were defeated after partisan bickering in the state House of Representatives, which was controlled by Democrats. Democrats continue to have a majority in the Maine House, although by a narrower margin, and Republicans now control the state Senate.

LePage sought last year to restrict the items that TANF beneficiaries can buy, but Democrats said the measure was unenforceable because recipients can get their benefits in cash and then buy the items anyway. LePage’s administration admitted enforcement would be a problem but said changing the law would deter misuse.

The House also rejected his proposals to bar use the of electronic benefit cards out of state and require three job applications before recipients get benefits. Current law requires recipients to show they’re looking for work to continue getting benefits.


The Legislature last year did agree to bar the use of electronic benefit cards at smoke shops. Card use was already barred at liquor stores and casinos.

LePage vowed to again seek to reform welfare this year and made it the first policy he mentioned in his inauguration speech.

“Welfare reform is very, very dear to my heart,” he said, adding that he wanted a plan to transition people from welfare to employment and change income thresholds that some say make it worthwhile to continue receiving benefits.

But LePage’s tax overhaul plan, which calls for expanding sales taxes to pave the way for lower income taxes, has overshadowed his other priorities.

LePage said his reform package this year contains other provisions, which will be revealed when he introduces his bill Monday.

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