The legacy of Governor John Baldacci is this:
- a massive expansion of the number of people trapped in Maine’s welfare system
- a massive explosion in public welfare spending in Maine
- no change in Maine’s poverty rate
Maine’s welfare system undermines hard work and traps parents and children in poverty. We must fix the system to free families from dependency though accountability and hard work.
The challenge of the next governor and next legislature is to reverse these destructive and unsustainable welfare trends.
The facts are clear – between March 2003 and March 2010, Maine’s welfare system enrollment skyrocketed 70 percent, from 226,000 to more than 381,000 individuals.
Today, almost one in three Mainers is trapped in the welfare system. Let me repeat that: almost one in three people in Maine are on some type of welfare program. All this, despite the fact that Maine has a poverty rate below the national average.
In Maine right now, 29 percent of the total population is on some form of welfare. By any measure, Maine is the most welfare dependent state in the nation. Maine ranks second in the nation in the percent of its population on Food Stamps, second for TANF cash assistance, and second for Medicaid.
If these trends continue, Maine is on pace to have more people on welfare by 2013 than there are people working in all private sector jobs.
Maine spent nearly $2.5 billion a year on its welfare system as recently as 2008, up from only $1.4 billion a decade earlier – that’s 50 times more than we spent on economic development ($47.6 million) and more than our entire K-12 public education spending ($2.278 billion).
What are we getting for all this welfare and all this welfare spending? Maine’s poverty rate is growing despite the welfare system’s huge cost and size. Between pre-recession 2001 and pre-recession 2007, the portion of Mainers living in poverty grew from 10.3% to 10.9%.
That’s financially unsustainable. But more importantly, it is morally unacceptable.
Maine has a proud tradition and a national reputation for self-reliance and a strong work ethic. Yet, our current welfare system robs families of the hope of a better life by keeping them in a system that undermines hard work and traps parents and children in poverty.
The report that we are releasing today is the story of Maine’s dependency crisis. More importantly, the report lays out a clear path of reforms of how we can Fix the System and free families from welfare dependency through accountability and opportunity