Former MHPC head in middle of Florida welfare debate

Tarren Bragdon, formerly of the Maine Heritage Policy Center and one of Gov. Paul LePage’s transition team co-chairs, left Maine several months ago to launch a similar conservative think tank in Naples, Fla. called the Foundation for Government Accountability.

Bragdon and his organization are at least partially responsible for pushing legislation that required Florida welfare recipients to submit to drug testing in order to receive benefits.

Several Florida newspapers, including the Florida Independent, have reported this week that a state court has temporarily suspended that new law and, in its written decision, dismissed a report by Bragdon’s group that had been cited by supporters of the law.

When Bragdon was head of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, welfare reform was one of his biggest priorities, although some accused the organization of using anecdotes and twisting statistics to support the need for reform.

In the recent Florida ruling, a judge accused Bragdon of similar practices when his group distributed a pamphlet that analyzed the impact of the Florida law require drug testing.

“Even a cursory review of certain assumptions in the pamphlet undermines its conclusions,” the judge wrote. “Just by way of example, the pamphlet suggests that the state will save millions in the first year; but it arrives at this number by extrapolating from the 9.6 percent of TANF applications that are denied for “drug-related” reasons, including those who tested positive and those who declined to be tested. It extends these hypothetical savings for the full year that a TANF applicant who tested positive for drugs would be subject to losing benefits.”

Although it hasn’t been proposed in Maine, there are likely a handful of lawmakers (maybe more) who would like to make drug tests are requirement for the state’s welfare recipients.