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GOP welfare plan would give Md. $10 million less

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Maryland stands to lose about $10 million in federal funds next year under the Republican welfare proposal that a House subcommittee began to consider section by section yesterday, officials said.

As a Ways and Means subcommittee took up the proposal, its GOP-majority staff produced a formula for distribution of federal funding that will bring Maryland nearly $219.5 million annually for the next five years for its major welfare program, known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and several related programs.

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That represents a 4 percent decrease at a time when Maryland's welfare rolls are rising.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening predicted that Maryland would not even be able to count on $219.5 million for five years as Republicans look for ways to make further budget cuts.

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"The balanced budget amendment almost certainly is going to mean further cuts in state and local aid," said Maryland's new chief executive, predicting that federal welfare would be a huge target.

"Taking these things piecemeal is a recipe for disaster," he said.

Maryland spent about $450 million last year on AFDC and related job and child care programs -- with about half that money put up by the state, according to Helen Szablya, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Resources. The state has 222,000 recipients -- mostly women and children.

She said the federal share amounted to $225.8 million last year and is expected to rise to nearly $230 million this year, $10 million more than the amount proposed for next year by the GOP. In the past year, Ms. Szablya said, the number of welfare families has increased from 80,000 to 82,000.

House Republicans propose to eliminate AFDC cash assistance and related work and child care programs, and to give the states block grants to finance the replacement programs and allow the states wide latitude in setting the rules. States will not be obliged to continue spending at current levels.

"I and my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, have predicted for some time that the current leadership in Congress' idea of welfare reform is going simply to mean less dollars," said Mr. Glendening.

As the federal share of welfare expenditures, Congress over the next five years would send the states $15.4 billion annually -- the 1994 federal cost of the programs that will be replaced by the block grant.

Before a standing-room-only crowd -- with a larger crowd in the hallway unable to get in -- the Ways and Means Human Resources subcommittee began section-by-section debate on the massive proposal, with Democrats offering amendments that were defeated on party line votes.

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The Republicans propose to scrap the 60-year-old concept of entitlement under which anyone who qualifies for benefits can get them, no matter what the cost to the government. With level federal funding for five years, states will be on their own in financing rising rolls and increased benefits, although the bill would create a $1 billion "rainy day" fund from which the states could borrow.

Republicans argue that the greater flexibility that this proposal gives to the states will allow them to save money, while Democrats worry that children will be hurt by reduced federal financing and an absence of federal requirements on how the states administer their programs.

With the Republicans aiming to save $43 billion over five years, Democrats argued yesterday that some of that money should be spent on added job training, day care, drug treatment and health care, but Republicans rejected their proposals on party line votes.

"These kids are undereducated, irresponsible and unemployable," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat. "Before we throw them in the water, we need to give them some swimming lessons.

"Some of them can't even fill out an employment application. Some have no experience with anyone in their family ever holding a job."

Welfare reform is part of the 1994 Republican campaign document known as the "Contract with America," a package of 10 legislative proposals on which the GOP leadership has promised a House vote by mid-April.

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Pressing to meet its deadline, the subcommittee began voting on sections of the welfare bill yesterday even as staff members were still writing others.

The proposal's most controversial features include denial of cash grants to teen-age mothers and their children; a limit of five years on the rolls for welfare recipients; denial of most welfare benefits to noncitizens; and work requirements that Democrats attack as inadequate.

But the allocation of the block grant funds threatened to become as controversial.

Almost as soon as the allocation formula surfaced yesterday, there were signs that it could produce a rift in the subcommittee as some members, comparing it to an alternative formula, complained that their states would be cheated out of money.

The Republican staff proposed to allocate the $15.4 billion among the states based on the share of federal AFDC money each received in 1991-1993. Four states -- California, New York, Texas and Florida -- would get 40 percent of the money. Maryland's share would be 1.46 percent.

In the first hours of the committee's discussions, the Clinton administration produced figures showing what would happen if the funds were allocated based on 1994 distributions, rather than on 1991-1993 averages. A committee aide said complete 1994 figures had not yet been compiled.

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Said Mr. Rangel: "There are some big winners and some big losers, and certainly New York is one of the biggest losers" if 1991-1993 figures are used. The Clinton administration figures showed that New York's allocation would be $269 million higher if 1994 figures were used.

And Rep. John Ensign, a freshman Republican from Nevada, noted that his state would gain $5 million if 1994 allocations were used.


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