- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A Democratic-controlled Maine legislative panel rolled back and rejected several of Gov. Paul LePage’s proposals aimed at overhauling the state’s welfare system on Wednesday, drawing sharp criticism from the Republican governor.

The Health and Human Services Committee nixed the governor’s measure to require some welfare applicants to show they’ve applied to three jobs before receiving benefits and another proposal that eliminates some exceptions to participation in work-search programs.

The committee supported scaled-back versions of two other proposals from LePage. The governor originally sought to ban out-of-state use of electronic benefit transfer cards, but the committee amended the bill to direct the state to study the issue of residents using EBT cards outside of Maine instead.

LePage called it “incomprehensible” that lawmakers would turn down his “common-sense proposals.”

“I am the first one in line to help someone in need, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of and neither do hard-working Mainers,” he said in a statement. “These liberal politicians would rather see welfare cash benefits, which are provided by struggling Maine taxpayers, go out of state than to keep that money in Maine.”

An amended version of a LePage proposal that would ban the use of EBT cards at smoke shops also won support. LePage had initially proposed to bar the use of EBT cards to buy things like alcohol, lottery tickets and cigarettes, but some lawmakers questioned how the state could enforce what people buy with money they draw from their cards at ATMs.

Democrats said the proposals the committee rejected would have made it more difficult for struggling families to get by.

“The right route to reform is through education and training,” Sen. Margaret Craven, a Democrat from Lewiston and co-chair of the committee, said in a statement.

The panel also turned down a bill that would reduce the amount of reimbursements some cities get from the state to run their municipal welfare programs.

The measures head to the full chamber for further consideration.

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