When did “work” become a “four-letter-word” for liberals? (including Gessing testimony on Martinez food stamp proposal)

I spent July 16 driving down and back to Las Cruces to testify before the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee hearing on the Martinez Administration’s proposal to re-impose work, volunteer, or education attainment requirements for able-bodied adults without children and adults without small children.

Somehow, we have gotten to the point that asking able-bodied adults to improve their standing is simply beyond the pale because the liberal advocates that testified and all the Democrat legislators who attended spoke against the proposal.

An article from the Las Cruces Sun-News details the issue and Democrats’ opposition nicely.

Ironically, one of the main points the opponents of the work requirements repeatedly brought up was that New Mexico’s job growth is lagging its neighbors. While a true statement, one wonders if they realize that it is their policies that have put New Mexico in this sorry position. My testimony in support of the Administration’s work requirement is below:

Testimony on New Mexico’s Plan to Re-impose Work Requirement on Food Stamp (SNAP) Recipients
By Paul J. Gessing

Since 2009, New Mexico has waived federal work requirements tied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Martinez Administration’s proposal is to reinstate the rules limiting able-bodied people to three months of SNAP benefits unless they work or attend job training classes at least 20 hours per week. The new requirements would be imposed on parents of children older than six-years to complete up to 80-hours a month of activities such as community work to continue to receive the SNAP benefits. It would also apply to teens who are not in school.

Over 21 percent of all New Mexicans receive food stamps, behind only Mississippi.
Somewhere between 26,000 and 80,000 people could be impacted by the proposal. According to a September 2014 report from the Pew Center, no fewer than 17 states were working to re-instate their work requirements.

Other states have seen dramatic effects in terms of reduced dependency from re-imposing food stamp work requirements. In 2014, for example, Maine re-imposed a three-month limit (out of every three-year period) on food stamps for a group often known as Abawds — able-bodied adults without minor dependents — unless they work 20 hours per week, take state job-training courses or volunteer for about six hours per week. The number of Abawds receiving food stamps in Maine has dropped nearly 80 percent since the rule kicked in, to 2,530 from about 12,000.

Maine’s requirement has been in effect for about a year now and I have heard no reports of even a single person starving as a result of this policy change.

The truth is that food stamps were meant to provide a bridge for people who are between jobs or have fallen on hard times. They are not a way of life. Completely removing oneself from the work or volunteer forces hurts the very people that SNAP is supposed to help. Sitting at home watching television or waiting for the phone to ring is no way to look for work.

Indeed, while unemployment rates in New Mexico remain somewhat higher than the national average at 6.2%, the rate in neighboring Texas is currently 4.2% which economists consider to be “full employment.” Even New Mexico’s largest cities have reasonably-low unemployment rates with Albuquerque at 4.9%, Santa Fe at 4.2% and Las Cruces at 5.2%.

It would seem that the only thing one truly needs to do to get a job in New Mexico is to move to one of her major cities. Absent that, there are opportunities aplenty in neighboring Texas.

The Martinez Administration’s proposal is eminently reasonable and encourages self-reliance rather than dependency which is very important. What doesn’t work is spending $80 billion a year on a rapidly-expanding program and imposing little or nothing in the way of requirements.

Lastly, food stamps are not an economic stimulus. The money has to come from somewhere and dollars that are taxed away and spent on food stamps can no longer be invested in our economy. Welfare programs do not stimulate the economy. Average New Mexicans working every day and honing their skills will make our state better and more prosperous.

Thank you for your time.