Democrats: Buying junk food with Food Stamps is awesome for Mainers

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Should food stamps be used to buy candy? Democrats say Yes…

AUGUSTA – In a surprise move, House Speaker Mark W. Eves (D-North Berwick) ordered Democrats on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee (HHS) to kill a bill from Gov. Paul R. LePage that would allow the state to exclude junk food from eligible food stamp purchases.

State House sources said Friday that Democrats’ last-minute decision to oppose the bill came after the House Speaker’s top legal adviser  Alysia Melnick of Cape Elizabeth, entered the committee room and delivered marching orders for Democratic leadership.

Sources said that prior to Melnick’s involvement, the Governor’s bill seemed destined for passage, and that the decision was likely aimed at denying the governor a victory on welfare reform.

“It was a huge surprise to the Republicans on the committee when the Democrats came out of a meeting and decided to kill the bill,” said Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), the ranking House Republican on the HHS Committee.  “It seems they’re just no longer interested in attaching even the most commonsense rules to welfare consumption in Maine.”

The governor’s bill, sponsored by five Republicans and five Democrats, seemed like an opportunity for bipartisan reform of Maine’s growing and dysfunctional welfare program. Public health advocates, who typically side with liberal Democrats on matters pertaining to HHS, supported the measure as a means to ensure healthy eating practices among Maine’s poorest families.  Republicans and conservatives supported the measure as matter of fiscal responsibility.

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Many merchants actively exploit the fact that food stamp users can spend welfare benefits on junk food.

LePage said Democrats have chosen their ideology over common-sense.

“Democrats once again have demonstrated an extreme agenda by obstructing any and all common-sense welfare reforms,” said LePage. “The inconsistency of the majority party continues to stun me.”

“On one hand, they talk about wanting to reduce health care costs. But on the other hand, they encourage people to eat junk food with absolutely no nutritional value, all while being funded by Maine taxpayers.”

Said LePage, “Maine people can simply not afford a government that squanders their valuable tax dollars. Mainers expect their elected officials to make the tough decisions needed to improve Maine’s economy and the lives of the people who live here.”

“Enabling welfare recipients to buy junk food with taxpayer money doesn’t accomplish either.”

The 8-5 vote to kill the bill split exactly along party lines, but is not the end of the conversation over welfare reform.  The bill will head to the floor of the House and Senate, where members will have an opportunity to vote for or against continuing to allow food stamp users to buy junk food with taxpayer cash.

S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter
srobinson@mainepolicy.org

14 COMMENTS

  1. The successful weight loss programs (Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers) focus on calories, salt, and carbohydrates (sugar). All stores scan foods in order to determine buying patterns and manage inventory. It is not a stretch to extend the scanning of foods to the number of calories, salt and carbohydrates purchased per week. When people reach the recommended weekly intake of calories, salt, and carbohydrates based on the scanned results they pay the balance out of pocket. Can the governor with his enormous gut set the example?

  2. Been tracking for months now on a daily basis what I eat. Everything has a lot of salt from cereal to low sodium soup. I t is very hard to control salt and sugae intake. on the opposite it hard to achieve enough iron calcium and potassium. Scanning what you buy would really make no sense if you bought boxes of things on sale pr more than a few of something.

  3. The struggling taxpayers of Maine should not be paying for candy bars and Mountain Dews for welfare recipients. Every knows this and even most Dems will agree – at least privately. In fact, legislative Dems were openly in favor of it until they got their orders from on high. Somehow, their leadership believes, passing this common sense bill would hurt them in the next election. It is a real shame that politics in Maine has sunk to this level.

  4. Food stamps are a federal program. The gov. doesn’t want the feds to tell the states what to do. The state can’t make laws the other direction either.

  5. how about giving the “poor” the government surplus that comes wrapped in brown paper? 50 lbs of flour, oats, rice, and dried eggs, canned pork and beef. and give them a cookbook. lot cheaper and it would maybe motivate some to get off the dole. nothing irritates me more that seeing ebt users buying frozen pizza and prepared foods. costly and not that healthy.

  6. Thomas You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about when you talks about saving calorie counts. That would be a HUGE big brother program.

  7. Joel Johnson ..left pocket, right pocket, it’s all tax dollars and lets not forget the ancillary costs…dentist bills, healthcare costs for obesity and diabeties as well as other health realted issues….these things DO effect our state budget.

  8. Not everyone that receives food stamps doesn’t work, some work and still need help to food the family.
    This is something that be impossible to pass completely as there are foods that aren’t considered junk food that are highly unhealthy.
    I do like how Maine encourages eating healthy for example the farmers market 50% with EBT. That is great you can get fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, cheese, and meat all local and fresh and healthy without chemicals.
    Farmers markets two that I know of is Sunday across from the Bangor Library Not sure of time for this one and Grange Hall on Ohio on Wednesday 2-6 starting June 5.

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