Letter to the Editor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Phyllis Mundy
Taxpayers deserve real reform, not window dressing
April 15, 2011
Recent automated phone calls to my constituents accused me of voting against a bill that “would help to stop fraud and abuse in the welfare system.” I appreciate this opportunity to tell the rest of the story about why I voted against HB 1251, Rep. Tarah Toohil’s just passed legislation referenced in the calls.
Rep. Toohil’s bill raises the penalty for welfare fraud for an individual from the current 5 years to 7 years in prison when the fraud meets or exceeds $1,000. The bill’s proponents claim this would deter individuals from committing welfare fraud. However, this 2-year increase in prison time would cost taxpayers an additional $70,000 per individual in prison costs alone, not to mention the costs of prosecution and foster care for any children involved – all to add two more years of incarceration for one non-violent individual owing $1,000 to the Commonwealth.
I do not believe that this increased penalty would actually deter welfare fraud, and 68 of my colleagues from small and large urban and rural communities across the state agreed and also voted against it. It is important to note that the final vote on HB 1251 came just one day after House Republicans unanimously rejected a Democratic amendment to the bill which would have recovered millions of taxpayer dollars by pursuing health care providers who bill Medicaid for services they never provided. That is the big money in welfare fraud.
I have always supported the elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse from all aspects of state government, including from the Department of Public Welfare. I support and will continue to vote for numerous “welfare reform” bills currently on our voting calendar, bills that make sense. Rep. Toohil’s HB 1251, however, is the wrong approach which does nothing to prevent fraud and abuse and would cost taxpayers dearly.
In these tough economic times, when Governor Corbett would like to make deep cuts to education and other important services, is this really how we want to spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars? At a time when we are sending state prisoners to neighboring states at a very high cost, when our own SCI Dallas is dangerously overcrowded and prison budgets are one of the fastest growing and most expensive state budget line items, what sense does this make? HB 1251 is staggeringly bad public policy.
As I always have, I will continue to do all in my power to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in all aspects of state government – in ways that make sense from a public policy and fiscal perspective.
120th Legislative District