LePage proposal would bar food stamp use on junk food

AUGUSTA — A proposal by Gov. Paul LePage that would bar food stamp recipients from spending their benefits on soft drinks and certain snack foods made its way to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Friday with bipartisan support.

The LePage bill, LD 1411, is sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, the assistant Senate Republican leader, and is co-sponsored by five Democrats and four Republicans.

“It seems to me, if we are using taxpayer dollars to provide food for those less fortunate among us, we ought to make sure that what we are providing is healthy,” Katz said in a prepared statement.

The Democratic co-sponsors are Reps. Craig Hickman of Winthrop, Brian Jones of Freedom, Teresea Hayes of Buckfield, Sara Gideon of Freeport and Sen. David Dutremble of Biddeford.

The bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to apply for a waiver from the federal government that would allow the state to bar food stamp recipients from using benefits to purchase soft drinks and snack foods.

The state’s chances of securing the waiver aren’t particularly promising. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2011 rejected a similar waiver request from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying the waiver program would have been “too large and complex” to implement and evaluate, the New York Times reported.

The Maine waiver would apply to soft drinks and snack foods that are subject to the state sales tax, such as candy bars, gummy bears and chewing gum.

The Health and Human Services Committee on Friday also heard testimony on another LePage bill, LD 1443, that would make drug felons ineligible for benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. That measure is only sponsored by Republican legislators.

If the proposal passes, Maine would join 12 states that bar all convicted drug felons from receiving TANF assistance. Federal welfare laws since 1996 have barred drug felons from receiving cash assistance through TANF — while continuing to be eligible for other benefits available through the program, such as child care and certain job opportunities — though states are allowed to opt out of that restriction.

According to a 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service, Maine is one of 13 states that opted out of barring drug felons from receiving welfare benefits, while another 12 have kept the ban fully in place.

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Eric  LeBlanc's picture

God forbid a struggling

God forbid a struggling single mother buys chips and soda for her kid's birthday party. So the left and the right are on the same page? Makes sense since both ends of the spectrum are equally despicable in their own way. Maybe if we cut all benefits we'll have more money to kill villagers in Africa somewhere? It's possible there will even be enough leftover to provide cloned children to gay couples. Both sides win. Hooray for the unity.

Sharon Dudley's picture

Just a thought...

I am not saying that people do not deserve a treat once in awhile. I think that when you work and earn what you have, you can decide. If you want government assistance and it comes with conditions or restrictions, then you have two choices. Take what they are offering or go without.

We all fall on hard times and I am glad that that there are programs out there for the needy. If the needy starts getting picky about what is offered than maybe they don't really need it at all.

This is more than about food. Unhealthy eating leads to to obesity, medical and dental issues. The government pays for that, too.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Listening to the speakers in

Listening to the speakers in favor of this at the public hearing yesterday I have to ask....if the SNAP program is only to be used for nutritional food then why not include bolgna and hot dogs and other such items that really have no nutritional food value. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there as to what people get to buy with the food stamps and how much they actually get. When it comes to budgeting a 2 liter bottle of soda is a whole lot cheaper than a gallon of milk. Is that a good meal choice ....no but it is better than nothing at all. The government should not be telling people how to spend the food stamps. They would be better off educating people on ways to stretch the few dollars they may get to make nutritious meals out of their budgets.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"The government should not be

"The government should not be telling people how to spend the food stamps".
That statement is incorrect on far too many levels for me to even begin to explain it to you. So, let me put it this way; "You take my generosity, you eat the way I tell you to eat".

 's picture

Because they might buy flat

Because they might buy flat screen televisions, right? People with food stamps are asking for help.If you give someone a hand UP,you don't say,but only if you spend it as I tell you.Thats just more Government interference.Worry about what you eat,and let people eat what they want.As a Taxpayer,I don't feel it is my right to tell people how to spend the food stamps.You don't need to explain anything to me.You don't even have your own facts straight.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If you come to my house to

If you come to my house to eat because you have no food to eat at your house, guess what; you eat what I eat.

Bob White's picture

You have a good idea milk is

You have a good idea milk is a lot of money so buy soda its better then nothing. Well their is a thing called water that is free or cheap and guess what it wont rot your teeth. When i grew up my parents told me what I was having to eat you know why? They were paying I guess if you dont like that buy your own food. I understand people need help however they shouldnt be buying things like power drinks junk food. My wife and I work hard for every penny we have and we dont buy that suff because we cant afford it. Talk to people that work in convience stores they will tell you of all the waste.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

I listened to the

I listened to the presentation of the bill and it even includes things like bottled water because it has no nutritional value. Not that I think they would ever get the waiver but when do we say enough is enough and make the government get out of our homes. They cannot run the state or the federal government without going into debt so what makes anyone think they can decide what goes on in our homes. And btw....food stamps is a federal program not a state program so why is LePage worried about a state program that doesn't cost the state....I would think he has more important issues to deal with.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If we don't want the

If we don't want the government in our homes, we shouldn't take their financial help.

 's picture

When we start telling people

When we start telling people what they can eat,what they can buy,and what to do with food stamps,we are really going too far.I don't have time to look in other peoples carts,I have myself to worry about.Gov.Lepage doesn't look like he eats for his health.Since when do we have the right to tell others what to eat.The same people who are praising this,were the ones screaming about not wanting gun controls.People are so worried about what food stamp recipiants can buy,but I bet they have snacks too.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Because if we don't regulate

Because if we don't regulate what they can buy and can't buy, they'll be buying flat screen TV's with the freakin' money. Do you think that most people on food stamps are there because of their propensity for making wise choices?

 's picture

So you think FOOD stamps will

So you think FOOD stamps will be used for flat screened T.V.'S. Its FOOD stamps.Maybe your missing my whole point. If we start telling people what they have to buy,we are dictating. America is based on FREEDOM. Not all welfare or food stamp users are lazy people who made bad choices.If an elderly person who is collecting social security after working 50 years,is a person who made poor choices,or someone who got laid off in this BAD ECONOMY and cant find a new job,is a person who isn't fit decide what they can eat,then we all better sit back and let GOVERNMENT tell us all what to do.We are too lame to make choices on our own,evidently.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well, since you brought it

Well, since you brought it up, ask any politician. They'll pretty well tell you the same thing.
The flat screen TV analogy was used because Food Stamps, now pretty much having gone to an EBT card system, are more difficult to control with regard to what purchases are being made, especially now that there are so many unscrupulous merchants out there who will sell anything to a food stamp user just to turn over a quick buck.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Hate to tell you this but

Hate to tell you this but flat screen tvs can't be bought with food stamps but can be bought with the TANF money and this bill has nothing to do with banning the purchase of tvs. And I think you should actually look for a breakdown of who actually receives food stamps because low income WORKING people receive food stamps, elderly RETIRED people also receive food stamps. Some of you just really do NOT have a clue about what the government is trying to do....if you let them in to tell people in one program what to buy the soon they are going to be trying to get into everyone's life and pretty soon they will tell YOU what you can and cannot do with money earned.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

They ARE into everyone's

They ARE into everyone's lives already. Look at what they've done to the Social Security monthly payments. By mandating electronic deposits they've forced 100' s of thousands of elderly people who may not have had bank accounts to open bank accounts or risk not receiving their monthly SS checks. All I'm saying is there has to be some regulatory control over how the food stamp, TANF, or EBT money is being spent. It is taxpayer money, after all.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

People do NOT have to open a

People do NOT have to open a bank account to receive Social Security checks. They can arrange to get a Direct Express card free of charge and money will be loaded on that. It will work like any other debit/credit card. For more information on how to do this just go to www.usdirectexpress.com and they can apply right there or call the number ...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Just another card to have

Just another card to have misplaced, stolen, or rejected by systemic malfunction.

Bob White's picture

I wonder how the left will

I wonder how the left will turn this around to make the Governor a bad guy.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

I can't stand the far left

I can't stand the far left lunatics but Lepage truly is a bad guy. He's a mean spirited, self absorbed, heartless bully. He needs to do the state of Maine a favor and choke on a ham sandwich.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You were doing fine until you

You were doing fine until you threw in the part about choking on a ham sandwich, which was in bad taste. (pun intended).

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Good point. I should have

Good point. I should have said chicken salad sandwich :)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot (a liberal) thinks

The parrot (a liberal) thinks you're saying the governor is a coward (chicken).

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

To funny, and sad

Do you assume or imply always what would the left think or do...We have two families on my street alone that have been unemployed for over 7 months...guess what, they are both republicans on the government dole....I have been there for them assisting and insisting on buying bags of dog food for his two dogs, for my next door neighbors family since they need the money to eat on. Gave them my refrigerator since I bought a new one and so happened his was on the outs. So you see it is a two way street, but your accusations are unfounded and plainly stupid.

As far as I see it, it is good knowing that the people are instructed on the proper purpose and use of stamps and not for unhealthy items that cannot make a dinner or meal for many of the family for buying the proper necessities.

Others could say or think that why isn't the repubs making hay about, government that is stepping on the citizens, telling them what to do, in your way of rhetoric.
Just like Bloomberg with his big gulp sodas, it is government knocking on your door and telling you how you should live.

And yes I know the difference from personal moneys and government assistance, so that should give the government the authority to set standards and SOP's, which should of been done at the introduction of stamps, but again the elected officials always a day late, dollar short and asleep at the switch..

Jon Cantin's picture

Repubs comment

Jerry,

I am surprised that you have helped the two familys on your street because they are "republican."

This is a quote by you a week or so ago. Frankly it made me sick that someone holds that much hate for others.

Jerry -> "I prefer repubs as prone, cold and blue."

Really? This one stuck with me enough that I remembered it.

Jon

Bob White's picture

your right I was out of line

your right I was out of line with the way I started my comment

GARY SAVARD's picture

I think that lobbyists for

I think that lobbyists for the soda and snack foods industries had/have enough clout in D.C. to overcome any common sense changes in the SNAP. I'd bet that the reason these items are on the menu in the first place goes back to their input.

Jon Cantin's picture

Good Job!

I think this is a good idea. It's nice to see both partys onboard. It's not the kind of law change that wins votes from the welfare recipients, but it should win votes from other citizens.

Read to the bottom of this article. "Maine is one of 13 states that opted out of barring drug felons from receiving welfare benefits, while another 12 have kept the ban fully in place."
So if a nearby state didn't opt out of this, it looks like an invitation for felons to come to Maine for welfare benefits.

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