Welfare reform compromise said to be unlikely

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The war of words over welfare continued Friday in Augusta. Democrats in the House on Thursday defeated four welfare reform bills from the Governor and Republicans – including one that would prohibit using EBT cards to buy cigarettes and alcohol, or pay bail.

That EBT card bill, and another to ban out-of-state use of the cards for cash, are a key part of the welfare debate. Republicans claim there is widespread fraud and abuse by EBT card users, while Democrats claim the numbers being used by the Governor show a very small amount of abuse.

Democratic leader Rep. Jeff McCabe did offer a compromise on banning liquor and cigarettes, but it didn't get support from either party. McCabe's compromise would ban the purchases as the Governor and GOP want, but would have no penalty for the first offense, and lesser penalties for remaining violations than Republicans want. Republicans complained the penalties were not adequate and would not support it.

Both sides say they know the public wants welfare changes, but at this point they say the chances for compromise seem slim.

The Senate is expected to take up the welfare bills on Monday, and a Democratic spokesperson says some amendments are being discussed.


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