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Reagan Vows to Veto Welfare Bill Unless It Is Built Around Work

Times Staff Writer

President Reagan warned Saturday that he will veto a pending welfare bill unless it has strong federal work requirements for adults on welfare rolls.

The legislation, now being considered by a Senate-House conference committee, is one of the last major items awaiting action before Congress adjourns for the year.

“If Congress presents me with a bill that replaces work with welfare expansion and that places the dignity of self-sufficiency through work out of the reach of Americans on welfare, I will use my veto pen,” the President said in his weekly radio address. “Any bill not built around work is not true welfare reform.”

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A Democratic spokesman, however, challenged the President’s view that work requirements be part of the federal law.

Rep. Thomas J. Downey of New York, ranking Democrat on the public assistance subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the pending bill does provide incentives so that welfare recipients who work are better off than those who do not.

“Unfortunately, the Administration seems more eager to punish the poor,” Downey said in responding to Reagan’s radio talk for the Democratic Party.

“Yes, requiring a welfare recipient to work may be necessary, but those requirements should be controlled by state and local officials who administer our welfare programs, not by federal bureaucrats,” Downey said.

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The President and Downey also differed on whether Americans were better off today than they were a decade ago.

In his talk, Reagan said the number of jobs was at an all-time peak and “we have better jobs at better pay.”

Cites Rise in Real Income

After adjusting for inflation, he said, the typical family has seen its income grow by more than 10%.

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Downey, however, said a recent Census Bureau study shows a growing gap between wealthy and lower-income Americans.

“The fact is that the typical worker in America is no better off today than he or she was 10 years ago,” Downey argued. “Things have gotten worse and the gap between the rich and the working poor threatens to become a chasm.”

While the poorest 40% of American families are worse off today than they were 10 years ago, Downey said, the richest 5% of the population has increased its income by an average of $16,000 a year.

Reagan said the economic expansion of the last five years has allowed 3 million Americans to escape poverty.

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Downey, however, said 32.5 million people were below the official poverty line, adding that the poverty rate under Reagan was higher than at any time in the 1970s.

“One of every five children lives in poverty,” the Democratic spokesman said. “That is unacceptable.”

In his talk, Reagan gave credit to Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.), the Republican vice presidential nominee, for sponsoring a job training act that the President said has proved “very effective” in helping workers find jobs.

“But there are still some Americans whom our expansion has passed by--those caught in the welfare trap,” the President said. “Programs that were intended to help poor citizens have instead made them dependent on government checks, unable to break away and become productive workers.”

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That is why, Reagan said, he would not accept any welfare bill unless it is geared to making people independent of welfare payments.


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