Will Maine Democrats risk shutting down state government to keep welfare dollars flowing to undocumented and illegal immigrants?

The first session of the 127th Maine Legislature is lurching toward adjournment in a few weeks, and as expected, a state budget showdown is brewing. Mainers are about to witness a clash of visions about what kind of state we want for the next generation of Maine families.

Budgets are about setting priorities. When Maine people set their household budgets, they understand that they have to distinguish between wants and needs. But State House Democrats refuse to be bound by the basic economic reality that governs Maine people when they put their household budgets together. Left-wing progressive Democrats (and some squishy progressive Republicans) are building a budget that diverts scarce resources from needed programs that benefit seriously disabled Maine people, to programs that subsidize the growing number of non-citizens and illegals who are moving to Maine.

No, I’m not making this up. And it gets worse.

Democrats are dug in so deep on this issue that they are willing to risk a state government shutdown to get their way. If they can’t muster a two-thirds vote for their budget deal in both houses before July 1, state government will shut down.

On the first round of votes in the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, majority Democrats were joined by Senate Republicans in voting against Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to bar undocumented and illegal immigrants from the General Assistance program, which is administered at the local level but partially funded by the state.

My sources tell me that Democrats consider welfare benefits for non-citizens a non-negotiable line-item in the budget.

LePage wants to use the money saved from ending welfare for undocumented and illegal immigrants to fund services for seriously disabled Mainers who have been languishing on the notorious Medicaid waitlists. Those waitlists are the legacy of the Baldacci administration’s reckless and irresponsible Medicaid expansion more than 10 years ago. Disabled and elderly Mainers were shoved to the back of the bus to make way for the legions of able-bodied childless adults who came out of the woodwork to sign up for medical welfare beginning in 2003.

The Democrats, aided and abetted by Senate Republicans, want to lock in another dependent underclass, this time non-citizens. In fact, the progressives have never forgiven LePage for what he did on his first day in office in 2011: He rescinded Gov. John Baldacci’s executive order that made Maine a sanctuary state for illegals in 2003. The pending budget proposal would, in effect, make Maine a sanctuary state once again.

But it will not happen if House Republicans stand united. And I am happy to report that we are rock solid in our commitment to protecting Maine’s most vulnerable citizens from a budget that throws them under the bus. The freshman House GOP caucus in particular is a group of smart, principled conservatives who understand what’s at stake.

As legislators, we have choices to make.

We can provide funding for programs that will help an elderly Maine couple with a developmentally disabled adult daughter get needed services, after languishing for years on a Medicaid waitlist because no funding was available.

Or we can provide welfare benefits and EBT cards to the increasing number of non-citizens and illegal immigrants who are moving to Maine.

Democratic leaders are engaged in a dangerous game of chicken. If they persist, we are in for a very bumpy ride between now and July 1.

Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, is serving his second term in the Maine House of Representatives. He is the ranking Republican on the Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development Committee. He may be reached at [email protected]

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