Welfare is Number One in New Budget

Pennsylvania taxpayers will once again spend more on welfare than any other department in the General Fund, including education, according to newly released budget spreadsheets (based on the tentative “deal”). The Department of Public Welfare’s budget will increase another $35 million, or 3 percent, to $10.59 billion next fiscal year.

Mind you, that represents just a fraction of state welfare spending—counting federal funds and other state funds pushes state welfare spending to more than $27 billion.

Despite the overall increase in welfare spending, special interests have been quick to decry social welfare cuts and reform proposals like the county human services block grant.

The reality is the status quo isn’t working. Welfare spending is growing faster than government revenues, poverty is rising and waste and abuse is common.

Consider the case of Supportive Concepts for Families, Inc. This provider of services for the intellectually disabled spent $73,152 leasing luxury vehicles, including an Acura MDX for $689 a month and an Acura RL for two years at $835 a month. SCFF could have purchased four Chevy Impalas for the cost of leasing just one Acura RL.

The solution to our welfare woes isn’t more money—it’s flexibility. Counties need flexibility to personalize services, and states need flexibility from Washington to better manage Medicaid—the program responsible for 80 percent of welfare spending.

Empowering local and state governments to fund programs that are most effective will help the needy escape poverty, rather than just lining the pockets of providers that are getting rich off the poor.