That sound you hear in Kansas is the footsteps of politicians running away from a new state requirement that limits welfare recipients to no more than $25 a day in withdrawals from ATM machines.
That provision, part of a bill signed into law a few weeks ago, likely runs afoul of a federal statute that says welfare recipients must have “adequate access” to their benefits and “access to using or withdrawing assistance with minimal fees and charges.”
Leading the exodus is Gov. Sam Brownback, who hastened to assure a reporter that the controversial provision did not come from his office.
That’s true; it began as an amendment in the Senate. But Brownback signed the bill. With fanfare, we might add.
It’s the governor’s responsibility to vet bills carefully and veto those with harmful consequences.
The welfare bill could potentially cost the state $102 million in federal block grant money. It clearly limits access to benefits, and it would require recipients to pay frequent withdrawal fees.
If nothing else, Brownback’s staff should have observed that ATMs generally don’t allow withdrawals in $5 increments. The state law effectively imposes a $20 limit.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Michael O’Donnell of Wichita, said he didn’t like the $25 limit, which was proposed by Sen. Caryn Tyson of Parker, Kan.
O’Donnell said he thought the limit would be changed later in the legislative process. But House leaders rushed a vote on the bill, allowing no deliberation or changes.
That rushed process, the sign of amateurs at work, has been happening a lot lately in Topeka. And — voila! — the result is bad legislation.
Brownback and others now say they’ll work with the federal government. There is still time to change the law — but not to avoid an embarrassment.