ALBANY - A New York state assemblyman is calling a 10 percent increase in state welfare benefits "mind boggling."
The increase in cash to welfare recipients was negotiated during a series of backdoor deals by state lawmakers prior to last week's 2012-13 state budget passage. The state's fiscal year started Sunday.
The overall increase in welfare benefits was heavily backed by Assembly Democrats, and equally derided by their Republican housemates.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell arguing on the floor of the Assembly for an amendment to the State budget to eliminate proposed 10 percent increase in welfare benefits.
"Sadly, as you give more money away, it makes it harder for people to get out of welfare," said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County. "Ultimately the best way to get out of poverty is to get a good job. This reduces their motivation to get out of welfare."
The increases to welfare benefits will be implemented in two phases; one coming July 1, 2012 and another on Oct. 1, 2012. It marks the third consecutive year in which benefits have been raised. In 2009 and 2010, cash benefits rose by 20 percent in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.
Goodell said the continued increases are due to New York City lawmakers, many of whom have constituents who receive some form of government assistance.
With next year's bump, New York will have the highest cash benefits for welfare recipients in the continental United States, according to the 2010 Urban Institute Welfare databook.
As a result, Goodell said New York will become the "welfare capital of the nation."
"We need to focus on cutting taxes and creating private sector jobs, not increasing the welfare burden on hardworking taxpayers," he said.
To counter rising welfare costs to local governments, the assemblyman pushed for the elimination of the 10 percent cash hike in favor of expanding the youth employment program in the state.
By doing so, Goodell said the job placement program would lessen costs to local taxpayers, and at the same time, help at-risk youths gain employment.
The measure, however, was quickly defeated in the Assembly, though Goodell notes that his fellow Republican constituents were "100 percent behind me." He added the same support held true in the state Senate, which was unable to broker a deal with the state Legislature to implement a change to welfare assistance.
"It's grossly unfair to taxpayers to ask them to pay higher property taxes to fund this huge increase in welfare benefits," Goodell said.
Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed the the increase to public assistance grants. The governor said he was able to secure additional funding for the hike through the Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.