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Officials Feel Pressure Of Reforms Plans To Dismantle Welfare Could Shift Burden To Cities

Republican plans to dismantle federal welfare programs threaten to put new pressures on local property taxes if the burden of caring for poor Americans is shifted to cities and counties, local leaders said Wednesday.

City, county and local school officials said changes in welfare programs that simply push low-income people off welfare, without providing them the education, training and child care to get jobs, are “dead-end strategies.”

“They will leave families destitute, and they will create crushing new social and cost burdens on local governments,” said Carolyn Long Banks, councilwoman at large in Atlanta and president of the National League of Cities.

Banks, a Democrat, and officials of other organizations representing local governments complained that while several Republican governors had great influence in shaping House and Senate plans to reform welfare, they had been shut out.

Legislation passed by the House in March would cut welfare spending by $62 billion over five years, by cutting aid to legal immigrants and turning scores of anti-poverty programs over to the states as block grants.

Spending on those programs would no longer automatically rise in cases of increased demand, but would be set at fixed levels.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Republican Bob Packwood of Oregon, is drafting a bill that would convert the government’s primary welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, to a block grant. A committee vote is expected next week.

Robert Rector, a welfare expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, dismissed the complaints of the local officials, calling them “professional beggars” who advocate a larger welfare state.

“These people are professional welfare advocates who are highly inventive in finding ways to soak the taxpayer for ever-greater welfare benefits and services,” Rector said.

Randall Franke, a Marion County, Ore., commissioner and president of the National Association of Counties, said local property taxpayers may have to pay more if responsibilities for the poor are shifted.

“It will have an impact on kids, whether they’re ready to go to school or not, on our school dropout rates. It will have an impact on crime and delinquency rates, and our taxpayers are paying for all of that,” said Franke, a Republican.

“We know these people at home, and if they can’t get service someplace else, they’re going to be an impact on the schools, they’re going to be knocking on the courthouse, the city hall doors.”

Tags: Congress

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