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Gov. Baker Vetoes 'Cap On Kids' Proposal That Would Lift Welfare Benefit Cap

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker faces reporters as he unveils his state budget proposal during a news conference on Jan. 23 at the State House in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker faces reporters as he unveils his state budget proposal during a news conference on Jan. 23 at the State House in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday vetoed a proposal to lift a welfare benefit cap.

The governor's veto of the so-called "cap on kids" bill marks the third time Baker has vetoed legislation that would eliminate a policy that precludes families who are already receiving benefits through the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program from getting additional benefits when they have another child. Baker has repeatedly asked lawmakers to couple the cap repeal with additional welfare reforms.

The welfare cap bill (H 3594) passed the House 155-1 and the Senate 37-1, a level of support in both branches that that indicate Democratic leadership has well more than the necessary two-thirds support to override a veto.

Rep. Marjorie Decker, the measure's lead House sponsor, said she expects the House and Senate to override the governor's veto.

"I think the Legislature has spoken very clearly. This was a near unanimous vote, minus one rep and one senator. This is the third time we've passed this, and the third effort to pass this, we made this retroactive. We could not be any clearer how almost the entire Massachusetts Legislature feels about supporting the poorest children."

Baker included the cap lift in his fiscal 2020 budget, as part of a suite of reforms that would require adult Supplemental Security Income be counted for TAFDC eligibility calculations, allow an applicant seeking benefits to disregard the value of one car, and ensure that homeless families would not see a benefit reduction for accessing temporary shelters.

In his veto letter, Baker wrote that the cap lift should be accompanied by other reforms "designed to align the eligibility determination with federal standards and support recipients as they return to work." He urged lawmakers to agree to his broader reforms "in order to create a more equitable and streamlined approach to the calculation of TAFDC benefits, while establishing the right set of incentives."

Lawmakers rejected Baker's broader proposal last session, and before the Senate passed the bill this March, senators shot down a Sen. Vinny deMacedo amendment that would have imposed reforms similar to those sought by the governor. Sen. Sal DiDomenico, the main sponsor of the welfare cap repeal in the Senate, has said that 5,200 families would become ineligible for TAFDC benefits if Baker's SSI proposal took effect, and 2,100 children would have their benefits reduced.

Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, said Baker's move "continues to delay resources that ultimately are going to go to poor families."

"He is holding them hostage to his ideology or to a policy goal that he cannot achieve, knowing that the entire Legislature disagrees with him," she said. "And this is where he chooses to put his stake in the ground? This? He chooses his battle with the poorest children in our state?"

The cap lift would affect 8,700 children, according to the Coalition to Lift the Cap on Kids. The bill Baker vetoed calls for the policy change to be retroactive to January, and would give the state until September to implement it.

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