DECATUR — Local lawmakers, alongside the top Republican in the Illinois House, say the public assistance rolls must be scrubbed to save the state money and get assistance to those who need it.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and state Rep. Adam Brown of Champaign were among the Republicans at the Decatur Civic Center on Tuesday afternoon to push for a welfare reform plan that would, among other things, require all LINK cards users to display a photo ID when using the card, prevent recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from using the money to purchase alcohol, lottery tickets and other goods and services and suspend public aid and benefits to inmates at state correctional facilities or with outstanding warrants.
Mitchell said the reform plan — split into four bills — would save the state millions of dollars a year and help those who really do need help.
“When you have fraud and abuse in the welfare system, it takes resources away from people who really need it,” he said. “We cannot sit on our hands and do nothing here.”
Mitchell was joined by Brown; Pam Roth, R-Morris; Barb Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake; and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, as part of a daylong state tour for the Republicans to highlight possible benefits of welfare reform.
Brown emphasized the importance of solving the issue, saying the rising cost of welfare has added to the state’s fiscal crisis alongside the rising costs of pensions.
“One-third of our population relies on this to sustain their families … However, the cost is skyrocketing, and the state is in a crisis,” Brown said. “We must work to reverse this trend.”
The fate of the plan is bleak, though, with all four bills currently assigned to the House Rules Committee, where many bills are sent to die.
Additionally, no Democrats currently sponsor the legislation, which does not bode well for passage in the Democrat-controlled House or Senate.
Cross, who has not yet spoken to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, about the proposal, said he talked to some Democrats about supporting the plan and sees no reason why the plan cannot be passed in a bipartisan fashion.
“These ideas should be bipartisan, and they should be receiving support from our friends on the other side of the aisle,” he said.