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Norm Coleman: Welfare
By Martin Kaste
August 10, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

FOR NORM COLEMAN, QUESTIONS ABOUT welfare miss the whole point of his candidacy. Under a Norm Coleman administration, he says, Minnesota won't need welfare.

Coleman: We'll have jobs. People ask me, "Mayor, what are you doing for kids?" And I say, "The best thing we can do for kids is make sure their moms and dads have an opportunity to work."
Large numbers of former welfare recipients are already moving into jobs now, and Norm Coleman says he'll make sure that trend continues by lowering taxes and stimulating growth in the private sector. But he also acknowledges the costs associated with moving so many people back into the workforce.
Coleman: There are some challenges to be met - child care and education are two of them - but where I would differ, I'm sure, from some of the folks in the other political party, is that they would respond by producing a new child care program, or a new Department of Child Care.
Coleman says instead of creating new programs to provide services like child care, he'd put more money into people's pockets and have them find those services themselves.
Coleman: Every time Democrats talk about programs, Norm Coleman talks about tax credits. I talk about choices for parents, letting them use their economic power.
Coleman says tax credits would allow former welfare recipients and other low-income Minnesotans to put their kids in church-run daycare while they work. He says he'd also expand the tax credits for education that Governor Carlson promoted last year, making it easier for welfare recipients to pay for education or job training.
Coleman: With that, I understand there is a need for a safety net for the few, the few who are not capable of taking care of themselves.
Despite all his optimism that the expanding economy will eliminate the need for old-fashioned welfare, Coleman acknowledges that the state will probably always have to send checks to a handful of people - especially if and when the economy slows down. But he says that kind of help for extreme cases is very different from the system we've had for the last few decades.
Coleman: There's a difference between the net and a web. You think about a safety net, you think about somebody on the high wire at the circus who fall and bounce in and bounce up and get back on their feet. That's what welfare should be about. Instead, what we've done, you fall off, you fall into the web, you get stuck in cycles of dependency and you never get out.
Coleman says the few people who still need state help will get it - but they'll find strings attached:
Coleman: We have to be very, very, very aggressive about making sure people work for the benefits that they get.
Last year's welfare reform law gives recipients a total of five years to become self-sufficient. After that, they're supposed to be cut off. That deadline will come due for the first groups of welfare recipients in July of 2002 - three and a half years into the Norm Coleman administration, if he wins.