As Mass. governor, Romney took tough welfare line

By Steve Leblanc

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

In his state of the state address that year, Romney outlined his efforts to bring what he called "real welfare reform to Massachusetts," saying part of his goal was to help get those on welfare back into the workforce as quickly as possible.

"People from both political parties have long recognized that welfare without work creates negative incentives that lead to permanent poverty," Romney said. "It robs people of self-esteem."

Throughout his term, Romney often found himself at odds with welfare advocates, who said his tougher line would ultimately hurt the children of those on welfare and make it difficult for recipients to find jobs that would allow them to support their families.

During his final year in office, Romney and Democratic lawmakers again clashed over the best way to overhaul the state's welfare laws.

The House and Senate passed a bill they said would require more welfare recipients to work, but critics, including Romney, said the plan didn't go far enough, jeopardizing millions in federal welfare dollars.

The Legislature's bill would have required about 16,000 of the state's 45,600 welfare recipients to work. Romney proposed a series of amendments he said would put more than 25,500 recipients to work.

Among those was his push to require women with children between 1 and 2 years old to work if they could obtain state-subsidized child care. Romney also wanted to require disabled welfare recipients to meet the stricter federal definition of disability rather than a more lenient state definition.

The Legislature ended its formal session that year without taking final action on the welfare overhaul bill.

Asked for comment on his welfare record, Romney's campaign cited his remarks this month in Iowa, saying he pushed for tougher work requirements for those receiving benefits.

"People who receive payments from government are going to be required to work, not as a punitive measure, but as a gift. Work is enhancing. Work is elevating," Romney said in Iowa. "I want more people working if they're going to receive government assistance."

Miga reported from Washington.

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