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With VP pick, Romney endorses fed-state overhaul on food stamps, Medicaid

By Jim Malewitz, –

Mitt Romney on Saturday (August 11) unveiled U.S. Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate, a bold pick that indicates the GOP presidential candidate’s support for overhauling the relationship between states and the federal government — primarily in the areas of food assistance and health care.

On both issues, Ryan has advocated slashing federal funding for state programs, while granting states more flexibility to spend those grants — proposals that have stoked impassioned debate inside and outside Washington.

Ryan is a key critic of the current iteration of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which the federal government funds and the states administer. Critics say the program is in need of reform, calling it “rife with waste and fraud and abuse,” and citing rare examples such as two Michiganders who were recently found to have been collecting assistance after winning a lottery jackpot.

As Stateline has reported , the House Republican budget authored by Ryan would drastically reshape the program, cutting almost $123 billion from the program over 10 years, requiring recipients to work or enroll in job training and turning the program into a block grant.

Critics say the overhaul would increase poverty and hunger across the United States. According to the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center, SNAP, under its current setup, lifted 3.9 million people — including 1.7 million children — from poverty in 2010.

The Ryan budget would also drastically change the way states and the federal government work together on Medicaid, the program that funds health care for more than 50 million people, primarily the poor, elderly and disabled.

Under Ryan’s plan, as Stateline has reported, the federal government would dole out less money to states, capping funding each year instead of leaving it open-ended. The plan would eliminate provisions to last year’s federal health care overhaul — those that drastically expand Medicaid — and it would let states set their own rules.

“We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives,” he said upon unveiling the proposal in March, according to CNN.

The plan would cut $810 billion in Medicaid spending over 10 years, Ryan has said. States would receive about 34 percent less funding in 2022 than they do now, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Those cuts would hit some states harder than others.

Ryan’s fellow Republicans in Congress have largely cheered the proposal as a way to rein in the program’s soaring costs, and Republican governors say they would readily accept less federal money for more freedom to set policy. Democrats, however, have been quick to accuse Ryan of trying to gut an essential social safety net for the poor and elderly.

“Paul Ryan brings to Mitt Romney’s candidacy a strong commitment to end Medicare as we know it,” Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland and chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said Saturday in a statement. “The Romney-Ryan plan would be absolutely devastating for America’s seniors, ending the Medicare guarantee and shifting thousands of dollars in healthcare costs to them, leaving older Americans on their own.”

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