Batt Proposes Welfare Reform To Save Money, Families Seeks Advisory Council To Begin Reform With Afdc Programs
Republican Gov. Phil Batt announced on Wednesday that he is launching a major welfare reform initiative aimed not just at saving money but also at bolstering families that are being broken apart by the current system.
Batt said he will sign an executive order next week creating a special advisory council to work with Health and Welfare Director Linda Caballero to come up with the details of the reform package that would initially focus on the Aid To Families With Dependent Children.
“While that’s not the largest program, it’s probably the most controversial,” said the governor, who promised welfare reform in both his State of the State and budget messages in January.
In grudgingly recommending an 11 percent increase in Health and Welfare Department spending in his 1996 budget, Batt said welfare programs were the first place he wanted to start to get a handle on government growth.
“Federal mandates and planning pretty much locked us into place for this increase,” the governor said to applause from lawmakers.
“By next year, I hope to hold this increase near zero.”
Citing the fact that 32 other states have already undertaken their own welfare reform initiatives, Batt said on Wednesday that he was looking for a system that can provide short-term financial support during temporary crises and possible subsidies to make health insurance available to the working poor.
The point, he said, would be to “gradually move people off welfare by some combination of work and welfare” while avoiding an inadvertent increase in dependency on the welfare system.
And the need for the state to begin developing alternative means of handling social programs only increases because of the move on the federal level to turn most if not all of those responsibilities over to the states with block grants to help finance them.
Batt said he hoped a reform program would help him keep his promise to check future increases in Health and Welfare Department spending.
“I always want to save money,” he said. “But that is not my reason to want to initiate welfare reform. I think the recipients are the ones who are hurting.”
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