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It’s time somebody looks out for the hardworking Mainers who pay for welfare programs. Simply put, it’s time for real welfare reform.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage

Welfare benefits are supposed to help families, children and our most vulnerable Mainers. When liberal politicians refuse to do anything about wasteful spending on welfare, they are taking advantage of Maine taxpayers.

When we go after welfare waste and abuse, liberals claim we are conducting a “war on the poor.” This is outrageous. Until they have walked in my shoes, they have not earned the right to accuse me of waging war on poor people.

I was born into poverty, and I don’t want anyone to have to live that way. But I will not tolerate one dollar of waste and abuse in our welfare system. Every dollar that goes to liquor, cigarettes or lottery tickets is a dollar that is not going to a needy child.

Our Administration has released information showing thousands of transactions abusing taxpayer-funded welfare benefits on EBT cards. These are not anecdotal. That’s why we have submitted four bills to crack down on welfare fraud.

If someone wants to buy alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets or pay for bail, that's their business. But if you pay for them with an EBT card funded by taxpayers, that's our business.

One bill would prohibit the use of EBT benefits for buying alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets or paying for bail.

Some people move out of state for months at a time, but keep using Maine EBT cards. Another bill would restrict the use of Maine EBT cards to Maine.

A third welfare reform bill is necessary to make Maine law comply with the federal government. Maine allows far too many exemptions that excuse welfare recipients from work. Even the federal government has found Maine too lenient. Now we are facing fines for violating federal rules. Our bill will repeal those exemptions.

Our fourth bill emphasizes the importance of looking for work before asking the taxpayers for welfare benefits. This common-sense bill originally came from House Republican Ken Fredette, but legislative leadership rejected it.

It’s also a federal requirement, and Maine is being fined for not adhering to the rules.

This bill sends a clear message. The quicker welfare applicants find work, the quicker they can become self-reliant and move out of poverty.

Our goal is to transition Mainers from welfare to work so they can succeed and prosper. I know it works because many of us have done it.

I want to be clear: I am not opposed to providing welfare benefits to those who are truly needy. Some people are incapable of working. Some have physical or intellectual disabilities, and some are elderly. Some families fall on hard times and need assistance.

There are many good reasons why some Mainers need a hand up. But there is no reason welfare should be a way of life.

If you suspect some of abusing the system, please call the welfare fraud hotline at 1-866-348-1129.

Thank you.

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