The BLOG: Politics and Law
ME vs. RI: A state works by making work work
Justin Katz | August 10, 2016
In The Daily Signal, Rachel Sheffield highlights some states that have taken the lead in reconnecting welfare programs (notably SNAP, or “food stamps”), with the inclusion of New England’s own Maine:
The decline in food stamp rolls between March and April of this year follows the re-establishment of work requirements in a number of states. On Jan. 1, 22 states had to reinstate the federal work requirement for areas of the state or the entire state because their waivers expired.
Some states did not wait until their waiver to end, however. Instead, they took a proactive approach to ensure that able-bodied adults were encouraged toward work.
Maine, one of the most proactive states in reinstating work requirements for food stamps, saw its caseload of able-bodied adults without dependents decrease by 80 percent within just a few months after re-establishing the work requirement.
Readers who’ve paid attention to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) won’t find Maine’s inclusion surprising. From 2012 to the latest report, Maine has climbed from 32nd in the country on the index (for which SNAP enrollment is one of 13 indicators), and second-to-last in New England, to 17th in the country, which is second best in New England. Overall, Maine’s SNAP enrollment dropped 24 percent over that period (60,441 people), compared with a 5 percent (8,592 people) reduction in Rhode Island.
Starting with the year of Maine’s SNAP policy change (2014), Mainers have benefited from a 16 percent reduction in state and local taxes, while Rhode Islanders have endured a 10% increase, according to U.S. Census data.
These differences are starting to make a real difference to the people of the respective states. Per the underlying data for JOI, the first six months of this year have brought Maine a nine-times-larger increase in employment, compared with Rhode Island, while jobs in the state have increased there, while decreasing here. Personal income in Maine is up 2.36 percents, compared with only 1.85 percent in Rhode Island.
Whether these comparisons — like comparisons with states that have implemented right-to-work policies — will show an expanding disparity between a state that is making positive, small-government, free-market reforms and one that is not, those of us who live in Rhode Island should begin demanding that we no longer be the control group for these tests of economic policy.