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Chiles has concerns about welfare bills

Gov. Lawton Chiles fears that welfare reform bills passed by Congress that exclude Cuban and Haitian immigrants would cost Florida more than $60-million annually.

Chiles outlined his concerns in a letter sent Thursday to Florida's congressional delegation, including Fort Lauderdale Republican Clay Shaw, one of the chief architects of the measure.

If the current legislation becomes law, Florida would be forced to pay for health care costs and other social services provided to eligible newcomers.

"What Congress basically decided this week was "Bug off, Florida. We're gong to stick you with the costs,'

" said Democratic Sen. Bob Graham.

The welfare dollars that now go to eligible Cuban and Haitians in Florida would be sent to other states.

Graham said he didn't think the ban on immigrant benefits would be stripped from the bill when Senate and House negotiators meet and said Florida's best hope would be a veto by President Clinton.

The Clinton administration also has criticized provisions that eliminate benefits to legal immigrants.

There are between 500,000 and 1-million legal immigrants in Florida. About 20,000 Cubans enter the United States each year.