whom it is now refused because they have not been residents of the State for at least one year would be an insignificant portion of the present welfare budget - about one half of one per cent - and half of this amount would be absorbed by the Federal Government.
(4) Administrative costs and budgetary problems would actually be significantly decreased if the residence requirement were abolished; the necessity of screening and investigating applicants in this respect would be eliminated and the savings to the Department of Public Welfare in time and money would be substantial.
(5) The Commonwealth can ascribe no purpose at all to the distinction made by the Statute between residents who have lived in the State for over one year and residents who have not. The Attorney General's position is simply that the Legislature may allocate the State's resources in any way it wishes, and that it may discriminate freely among residents in the matter of public welfare benefits except with respect to the applicant's race, religion, or sex. Any other distinction or classification is permissible, argues the Attorney General, since the Legislature has the uncontrolled discretion to spend its money on whichever of its residents it chooses to favor.
* * *
It is elementary constitutional doctrine that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a State or instrumentalities of the State from invidious discrimination among its citizenry. Reitman v. Mulkey, 387 U.S. 369, 87 S. Ct. 1627, 18 L. Ed. 2d 830. There is, of course, no constitutional right to receive public welfare any more than there is a constitutional right to public education or even public police protection. However, if the State chooses to provide such public benefits, privileges, and prerogatives, it cannot arbitrarily exclude a segment of the resident population from their enjoyment. It is for this reason that classification in State statutes which purport to exclude from coverage one or more classes of individuals who would otherwise qualify for the advantages and opportunities conferred by the Legislature must be examined in order to determine whether there is any legitimate purpose for the distinction; whether an important and constitutionally cognizable State interest inheres in the classification, or whether on the other hand, the exclusion is purely arbitrary. Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1817, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010 (1967); Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89, 93, 85 S. Ct. 775, 13 L. Ed. 2d 675 (1965); McLaughlin v. State of Florida, 379 U.S. 184, 196, 85 S. Ct. 283, 13 L. Ed. 2d 222 (1964). If the distinction is arbitrary, then the statute deprives the citizens so excluded of equal protection of the State's laws and of the benefits which those laws may impart. A discrimination without rational basis and without legitimate purpose or function is inherently invidious, and hence constitutionally interdicted.
In the context of the present case, we are totally at a loss to discern what purpose, if any, the Pennsylvania Legislature has ascribed to the one year residence requirement. To require a period of one year's residence as a condition to the receipt of public assistance results in the division of Pennsylvania residents into two classes: those who have lived in the State for one year and those who have lived in the State for less than one year. Such a distinction has no apparent purpose. See Green v. Department of Public Welfare, 270 F. Supp. 173 (Del.1967).
The Attorney General does not, of course, contend that its purpose is to erect a barrier against the movement of indigent persons into the State or to effect their prompt departure after they have gotten there and begun to realize the disadvantages of second-class citizenship. Such a purpose would be patently improper and its implementation plainly impermissible. The right to travel freely without deterrence is inherent in the notion of a unified nation, and no State may exclude citizens migrating from other States, whatever the reason for the migration. Edwards v. People of State of California, 314 U.S. 160, 62 S. Ct. 164, 86 L. Ed. 119 (1941); United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 86 S. Ct. 1170, 16 L. Ed. 2d 239 (1966). In any event, the proof mutually accepted by both sides in this case is that deletion of the residence requirement would not result in an influx of destitute relief-seekers.
Nor is there any contention that the residence condition enhances the administrative effectiveness of the Public Assistance Act. To the contrary, all of the evidence is to the effect that many of the burdensome budgetary and administrative problems which are currently encountered by welfare officials in the conduct of the public assistance program would be substantially alleviated by the removal of this bottleneck in the processing of applicants. Moreover, the added cost to the Commonwealth of helping the now excluded class would be relatively insignificant. Needless to say, there would be some increase in cost. It is axiomatic that Pennsylvania does save some money now by excluding residents of less than one year. But the constitutional test of equal protection is not satisfied by considerations of minimal financial expediency alone. To be sure, the State may reduce or even eliminate entirely welfare payments if it chooses to conserve resources in this fashion; it may turn all beggars from its doors. But it may not arbitrarily turn away some who are in need while bestowing its charitable favors on others. There must be some otherwise legitimate purpose for excluding members of the class who are in fact deprived of the protection and privileges of existing laws. It is not enough to say that the class is excluded because money is saved.
Needy newcomers are no less needy because they are newly arrived. They are no less residents of the State because they have only lately begun to reside there. And they are no less entitled to enjoy the public welfare benefits of which every needy resident of Pennsylvania may partake simply because they have experienced their critical need soon after migrating to their new home.
We do not seek to substitute our judgment for that of the Pennsylvania Legislature. We merely find as an indisputable conclusion of fact, as well as of law, that the Legislature itself has ascribed no proper purpose to the one-year classification. If the classification is without purpose, it is arbitrary per se and offends the Equal Protection Clause.
The Pennsylvania residence requirement constitutes a manifest violation of the Equal Protection Clause; accordingly, the Commonwealth will be enjoined from its further enforcement.