Augusta - The ACLU of Maine is in Augusta today to testify that the LePage administration is misusing the budget process in an effort to ram through significant changes to Maine’s social safety net. The ACLU will also testify against several parts of the governor’s proposed budget, LD 390, that would raise constitutional concerns. The Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and the Committee on Health and Human Services are hearing testimony on LD 390 throughout this week.
The ACLU will urge the Legislature to reject LD 390 part ZZZ, which would eliminate the General Assistance program entirely; part EEEE, which would ban families from receiving food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) if a parent has been convicted of a drug felony – which until last year included possession of even miniscule amounts of most opiates – in the last 20.5 years; part FFFF-4, which would reduce the lifetime cap on receiving TANF to 36 months from 60 months; part HHHH, which would deny General Assistance specifically to asylum seekers; and part KKKK, which would repeal provisions in the law that require DHHS to provide certain benefits to asylum seekers.
“The governor’s proposal raises significant constitutional concerns because it singles out certain populations for unequal treatment, without serving any legitimate purpose to the state,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine. “Limiting or eliminating the public safety net for some children, asylum seekers and people who have battled drug addiction in the past will do great harm to many people, but it won’t save the state money or help people get their lives on track. The governor should base his policy proposals on actual data, rather than his personal biases.”
Further, the ACLU objects to the LePage administration’s attempt to use the budget process to make major policy changes.
The group points out that if parts ZZZ, EEEE, FFFF, HHHH, and KKKK had been proposed as individual bills, each would have a complete hearing with time for public testimony and thorough consideration by committee. Instead, these major proposals are buried in a several-hundred pages long bill, and will receive only an abbreviated amount of consideration.
“The LePage administration has made a habit of trying to circumvent the normal legislative process in order to pass policy proposals that have been rejected, sometimes repeatedly, by previous legislatures,” said Amarasingham. “The budget process is too complicated to allow for full public participation and deliberation on what amount to incredibly significant policy changes.”