SACRAMENTO — The Senate, with bipartisan support, Thursday approved a Democratic alternative to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's plan to overhaul the state's biggest welfare program.
But the Senate's Republican leader said that he and other GOP lawmakers voted for the legislation only to move it toward an eventual compromise on the restructuring of the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program.
Wilson, in a proposal to the Legislature that also is headed for the November ballot, has urged an immediate 10% cut in welfare grants and another 15% cut for families with an able-bodied adult still collecting aid in six months.
The governor's plan also would deny aid to children conceived while their mothers are on welfare and limit grants for newly arrived California residents to the amount they could have received in the state from which they moved. He would reward teen-age mothers who stay in school and penalize those who drop out or leave their parents' homes.
The Democrats' alternative calls for cuts of up to 4.5%, depending on the cost of living in the recipient's region, and later sanctions for recipients who cannot find a job or refuse to take a public "workfare" assignment. Recipients on aid for two years would have to work 100 hours a month or lose up to 75% of their grant.
The Democratic plan also would deny aid to children conceived while their mothers are on aid but would exempt children born because of a failed contraceptive. The proposal would limit grants for new residents to an average of the other 49 states. Like the governor's proposal, the Democratic plan has an incentive system to keep teen-age mothers in school.
The plan's sanctions would be enforced only if the state and federal governments financed the work-for-welfare program sufficiently to allow every recipient to participate.
State Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) said the Democratic plan is a "thoughtful, well-tuned response" to the recent surge in welfare cases.
"The governor's approach is a meat-ax approach," Hart said.
The plan passed on a 27-10 vote, with 18 Democrats and nine Republicans voting for it. Six Democrats and four Republicans voted against the bill, by Sen. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).
Senate Republican Leader Ken Maddy of Fresno said the plan is "fatally flawed" but said GOP lawmakers voted for it knowing that the final agreement on welfare will be forged in an Assembly-Senate conference committee in consultation with the Wilson Administration.
Wilson's Health and Welfare Agency has said the Senate plan would save the state only $89 million a year, while the governor's proposal would save $640 million. Thompson contends his proposal would save $268 million.