Bill to prevent using food stamps to buy junk food fails in committee

AUGUSTA — Proposals by Gov. Paul LePage that would bar food stamp recipients from using benefits to buy junk food and make convicted drug felons ineligible for public assistance were rejected by lawmakers at the committee level along party lines Thursday.

Both measures, which are part of LePage’s efforts to trim spending on welfare programs, now head to the full Legislature for consideration, where the Health and Human Services Committee’s votes against them could hold up or not.

LD 1411 would prohibit the use of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for foods that are subject to the state’s sales tax. That would rule out a range of foods defined as “junk foods” by the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, including soft drinks and certain snack foods.

A resolve from LePage that led to the writing of the bill reads, “the purchase of unhealthy products in antithetical to the purpose of the program.”

If passed into law, the bill would allow the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prohibit use of the SNAP program for junk food. Democrats on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee voted to recommend against the bill, with Republicans in the minority “ought to pass” stance. The vote was 8-5.

The concept has tried and failed before. In 2011, the Department of Agriculture rejected a similar proposal from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg because it would have been too large and complex to implement.

Another bill championed by LePage. LD 1443, An Act to Make Convicted Drug Felons Ineligible for TANF Assistance, also received an “ought not to pass” recommendation with Democrats banding together in the majority. The committee’s clerk said all the votes hadn’t been cast as of Thursday evening but that the outcome was clear.

TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is a federal program that provides funding to families in need.

The law prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a drug-related felony from being denied TANF benefits because of that conviction, though the law also allows drug testing of drug felons receiving the benefits. Anyone who tests positive can request a second test and if it’s positive again, they would be required to enroll in a substance abuse treatment program in order to maintain their benefits.

LD 1443, which was sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, would repeal those provisions.

Instead, the bill states that anyone convicted of a drug-related felony after August 22, 1996, is ineligible for TANF benefits, including anyone receiving those benefits on the day the bill goes into law. It requires TANF benefits recipients to provide signed statements about whether the applicant or any member of his or her family has been convicted of a drug-related felony.

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 's picture

Buying junk food

When I said people on food stamps were buying pizza when my son was small that was alot of years ago but it did happen at Georgia's on Minot Ave. so am not going to argue that point and yes maybe they have changed it but there are people working that can't afford junk food or cigarettes. To which am I upset with food or cigarettes. The answer is BOTH. I see no difference if my tax dollars furnish them. I am not talking about the poor guy that lost his job and needs help. I am talking about the ones that make their living off all of our tax dollars. Why does everyone think you hate people just cause you are sick of supporting them when they don't even try or plan to try to get a job. I don't hate anyone but I am getting pretty fed up with the whole system and the ones that play it.

 's picture

I agree with you that no one

I agree with you that no one should make foodstamps and welfare a permanent life style. Everyone needs to pull his own weight.I also agree that people should not be using food stamps for all junk food,and not bothering to plan out a months worth of meals,then buying the snacks and such with any left over food stamps.What my whole point is,if they buy meals,and so forth,why cant they also have snacks and desserts.Why should we be able to decide they can only buy healthy food,and never get desserts and snacks.

 's picture

food stamps

First off we should be able to decide as we are the ones paying for it and many people working can't afford to buy that stuff for their own children. I would suggest instead of fighting for junk food that they be allowed to buy toilet paper but don't hear any of them complaining about that. If they are so upset cause they can't get their kids junk food and the junk food people are arguing cause they want to take soda, chip or whatever machines out of the schools cause of so much obesity and yet they will fight to be able to buy it with the food stamps. Don't make sense. I don't think not letting a child have junk food in the long run is considered depriving your child. We used to get an apple if we wanted a snack. Isn't that good enough for kids nowadays? Buy a cake mix and make 18 cupcakes and will have enough for their lunches for awhile. Oh yeah that would mean stirring and all that work. I don't hate anyone rich or poor and I don't like being accused of it when am just stating facts and common sense. Its no worse for parents nowadays to "make do" which we had to do but we have just made it to easy for them to do nothing. Kids sitting in front of a big flat screen tv eating there snacks and playing video game. Could it be lack of exercise that is causing the obesity in children?

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

If the fat cat politicians

If the fat cat politicians take too much away from the poor eventually they will rise up French Revolution style. The look on Lepage's face while being led to the guillotine would be priceless.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Trillions of dollars to kill

Trillions of dollars to kill people you have never met thousands of miles away? No problem. A mother buying a box of Little Debbie snacks to put one in her child's lunchbox? Summon the angry mob. Some of you people need to get some perspective. All that hate in your heart isn't good for your health.

 's picture

Very well said

Very well said

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So if LD 1411 were to pass,

So if LD 1411 were to pass, the State would force all food retailers to police the system. That in itself is not bright.

I rather see the program scrapped altogether and have the State hand out staples of beans and rice (figuratively speaking) to the needy. That will take program abuse down to zero.

 's picture

That would be more cost

That would be more cost effective,and would help curtail abuse of the program.I do agree with that. But even that program would allow snack foods. Im not saying people should buy all junk food,and no real meal type foods.I just don't think everyone needs to involve themselves in other peoples food choices.If they buy snacks for the kids and stuff for lunch boxes,thats not abuse of food stamps.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Public dollars, public

Public dollars, public opinions – simple formula.

 's picture


I can't even imagine why this did not pass. I worked all my life and my child didn't get junk food and I didn't eat lobster either so why should my tax dollars go to help someone else have it? Every month when the food stamps came out they would be lined up to buy several pizzas. When my child had pizzas it was little homemade one on english muffins. Buying all the pizzas was not for a treat but laziness in having to prepare supper for the most part. If most of these people are getting assistance then tell me why 90% of them can afford to smoke? They will tell you that you can't purchase cigarettes with an EBT card then tell me why they can go to the service desk and withdraw up to 200.00 dollars in cash and buy cigarettes and lottery tickets and liquor if they choose to. I feel bad for anyone that has been forced to use the system but there are a h--- of a lot out there that never have lived any other way and don't intend to even if it means having a kid every year. If a girl and guy live together even if he makes good money as long as they remain single she is an unwed Mother and gets assistance. Why would they marry? A girl comes home and tells her Mother she is pregnant and is told to get downtown the next day and sign up for all the free stuff coming her way and certainly will not be the only child she has of course. Your not suppose to smoke in a car with a child but have you ever seen it enforced or what are the odds that it will be but they can bring that child into a house full of smokers. If these people smoke and collect welfare shame on the state for allowing this to happen. They can tell you they don't but you can smell them a mile away and thats a fact. A dr. has been known to tell a person that is trying to quit or has quit if they are around second-hand smoke they might as well be smoking themselves although I am sure he wouldn't want them to. People that work and can't afford cigarettes will quit cause they have to but if someone else is buying then guess you don't need to. They don't seem to care that much about their children.

 's picture

You cant purchase hot food,IE

You cant purchase hot food,IE pizza hamburgers etc with EBT cards,so I don't know how you can see

People cannot buy prepared food with EBT cards.Pizza,hot dogs,hamburgers,are all off limit.So no one is lining up to buy them with EBT cards.If they are buying frozen pizza,where is the problem?Most people are rolling their own cigarettes,so they aren't spending it on brand name tobacco.Is your issue about cigarettes,or food?I agree that if you cant afford to feed your kids,cigarettes and pot,and alcohol should be off your list of must haves,butthats my personal opinion,and I would NOT feel it was my right to tell someone that,unless they are trading food stamps to get those items.

Since you cant buy

 's picture


you can buy pizza with foodstamps as long as its not cooked or hot. You can buy prepared salads and sandwiches too.

 's picture

The comment above was about

The comment above was about people lining up to buy several pizza's.What I said is,you cant buy cooked foods like pizza,hamburgers,and hot dogs,so I don't know how anyone could be lined up to buy several pizza's unless they were frozen pizza's,which should not be an issue.


could not agree w you more

could not agree w you more bob i was in line last summer and saw an ebt being used for over 80$$ of lobster are you kidding me thats not right i pay taxes so this jackass can not work and enjoy lobster w my hard earned tax dollar also drug testing should be mandatory for assistance. lets do like germany if you need help you get 6months after that they send u to the poor farm aka a place you do work for room and board

 's picture


I am a single mother with a 9 yr old. I don't get child support from my daughters dad though I have a court order out on him. I was working as a school bus driver. But that is only 25-30 hrs a week. when school in in session. after that it's summer trips and charters which don't happen every day. I have to pay rent, taxes and bills and buy food just like everyone else. Try buying food, paying bills, and keeping insurance on your vehicle, and gas in it and buying your child clothes and supplies for school. By the time I paid the bills, there was barely enough money left to buy household supplies as simple as toothpaste, and other hygiene items. So I was on food stamps. Because there wasn't enough money left to buy food to last after paying the bills and such. Yet you complain about someone buying 80.00 worth of lobster??? so what! at least they are eating. I saw a women buying a grocery cart of 5lb bags of sugar on her ebt card. i asked her if she was baking a lot she, said "no I'm buying them for my store to resell" so that's where the problem lies. What's the difference in buying $80.00 in lobster or buying $80.00 in hamburger or steaks? I pay taxes too, but since I moved with a job waiting for me that fell through i had to get on food stamps. So that person that bought lobster probably worked at one time or another so quit your complaining on what people buy with their food stamps. Do you expect them to live on mac and cheese and raman noodles or hotdogs until they get a job. You probably eat steak and lobster every now and then too. so quit judging a person by what they do with food stamps. At least they weren't buying drugs or cigarettes or something else by selling their food stamps. I hate being on the system but I have to feed my family too.

 's picture

So you demand they buy

So you demand they buy healthy food,then complain when they do???

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I rather see the state hand

I rather see the state hand out rations of beans and rice of you need food assistance. Get rid of EBT altogether.

Jake Paris's picture

dont forget

Just because someone receives food stamps doesn't mean they don't work. Raising a family of four or more is pretty near impossible on minimum wage. I'm sure there are food stamp recipients who don't have jobs, but you can't make that assumption.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The question should be why

The question should be why would anyone have four kids if they just work minimum wage jobs in the first place. I realize that some people don’t start out that way, but some people do.

Jake Paris's picture

Most would agree that family

Most would agree that family is the most important thing we have. Do you really think we should let our earning power make our family decisions for us?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

HELL YES, that should

HELL YES, that should ostensibly factor in to the equation.

Perhaps the question should be why should your family decisions impact my wallet?

Your earning power and your family decision should be yours and yours alone, and you should live with them. That is real freedom, not enslaving others to pay for your wants.

Bob White's picture

Another example of we want to

Another example of we want to cut and save money but not here though. If we wouldn't want to cut here then where? Oh I forgot those people vote so we wouldn't want to loose a vote would we.

 's picture

Food stamps.

So someone spoke out and said 'let each person be responsible for buying what they need or want'.Good. No one has a right to dictate what people can buy.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I would say, if you don’t

I would say, if you don’t want people to tell you how to spend money, then don’t take the people’s money to begin with. Simple.

Bob White's picture

You are right we don't want

You are right we don't want to dictate what people buy .... with their own money. Ask you this question if somebody comes to you and say I'm going to buy you a new car and they told you what kind of car it is but its not really the car you would want but it will get you to point a and then to point b what would you do? I know I would be very thankful and happy. This example is no different then the food stamps. If they want to buy junk food then they can do it like the other 49 % of Americans and buy it with their own money.

Brad Severance's picture

Perhaps you've forgotten...

Just because people are in need of help in their lives at one point, does not mean they have always needed it. I've payed into the tax system, except when I was out of work for a stretch. So, those are MY tax dollars at work too. If I want to buy junk food, using a system I paid into, I'll thank you to take your unjustified sour grapes elsehwere, and stay out of my business.

 's picture



MARK GRAVEL's picture

People here are upset with

People here are upset with the transient user, they are upset with the chronic and perpetual user of assistance.
The intended purpose is to help transient runs of bad luck, not to become a lifestyle.

Lastly, when you accept taxpayer dollars, you have to accept what comes with that – the taxpayer providing input as how to spend that money. It comes with the territory. If you don’t like that, then do not take any assistance.

BTW - you did no just receive your tax dollars, you received someone else's tax dollars too.

 's picture

Sorry,I didn't receive

Sorry,I didn't receive anyones tax dollars,Im not on food stamps,or any form of welfare.I have worked since I was 17 years old.If your so sure you have the right to dictate what people spend your tax dollars on,then you should also be deciding what roads get fixed,how much goes to pay down the hospitals,and so on.I do agree with you fully about it being a temporary assistance.No one should be on foodstamps,Tanf,or any of the welfare programs for life'unless they are permanently disabled.But,I don't believe we have a right to decide what its spend on as long as its food.I don't feel that people should run out and buy soda chips and junk the day the foodcard gets in.They do need to budget,and buy food that will last and sustain them.But,I also think they should get what they want for snacks too.If we decide what they should eat,then instead of food stamps,there should be food banks where they go and get a months worth of food,and don't get any card.That would put an end to people buying water to dump,or selling the cards for drugs and cigarettes.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

You’re welcome to think

You’re welcome to think differently, but public dollars means public opinions. Don’t like it, don’t take public dollars. It boils down to such simplicity.

Andrew Jones's picture

Using tax dollars to buy crap

Using tax dollars to buy crap makes it the public's business, whether or not you paid into the system at one point or another.

Jake Paris's picture

maybe, but...

I tend to agree about junk food... at least MY definition of junk food. I personally think it's wrong that someone would buy doritoes or pop tarts or RedBull on food stamps. Do you? I think tofu and fiddleheads and wine are okay. Do you? How about the fact that WIC only allows parents to buy cereals with preservatives -- no organic allowed... I think that's ass-backward. Do you? What if I say I think food stamps should only be used to purchase organic food. Organic food is certainly not "crap." Is that okay with you? It sounds like Chris Lawrence wouldn't like it if people purchased Organic food with their food stamps...because that kind of food is "too good" for people on food stamps just like lobster.

Point is, there's a good heart behind this legislation, but in practice, I'm sure it wouldn't work out as well as we could hope.

Brad Severance's picture

Welcome to the tax paying world sweetheart

We all pay for stuff we do not agree with, with our taxpayer dollars. Always have always will. Get over it.

 's picture

We have been spending tax

We have been spending tax money on wars for years.Wheres the out rage?People are dying in those wars,and we don't demand an end to it.So if you want to complain about wasted tax dollars,why not put a large effort in to getting the troops home?Its just much easier to spout off about people making food purchases,and demanding they eat what we decide.

Sharon Dudley's picture

I agree with Bob

I agree with you, Bob. Sometimes, help comes with rules or restrictions. If someone would like help, they should take what is being offered without complaint. If they want to complain, than maybe they don't really need it.


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