Kansas is in trouble. After slashing income taxes in 2012, the state faces a revenue gap of more than $400 million. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and state legislators are debating how to make up the shortfall. So far they’ve agreed on one way to control how state money is spent. Starting in July, people on the dole will be limited to a single ATM withdrawal of no more than $25 per day. The law also prohibits spending public-assistance cash at movie theaters, swimming pools, and video arcades. Nail salons and tattoo parlors are out, too.
“The primary focus is to get people back to work, because that’s where the real benefit is—getting people off public assistance and back into the marketplace with the dignity and far more income there than the pittance that government gives them,” Brownback said when he signed the Kansas bill into law in April.
Kansas is among several Republican-controlled states that have recently cut or limited public-assistance funds. In Arizona, which faces a $1 billion budget shortfall, lawmakers voted on May 18 to limit welfare to a year, the shortest window in the nation. On May 5, Missouri’s Republican legislature overrode Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto to enact a bill that cut thousands of low-income families from aid rolls by reducing how long people can claim cash from five years to fewer than four. Michigan’s GOP-controlled legislature passed a bill on June 2 that strips cash assistance from families with chronically truant children. “During the recession there were lots of blue states, for fiscally driven reasons, that were cutting welfare,” says Liz Schott, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank. “This year’s cuts feel more ideologically driven.”