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For Immediate Release

Date: 05/10/13

Democrats Circle Wagons Around Welfare State

Party-line committee vote kills bipartisan welfare reform bill

AUGUSTA - Democrats on the Legislature's Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee Thursday killed a bill that would allow the state to request a waiver from the federal government in order to exclude "junk food" from eligible food stamp purchases. Junk food includes soda, candy, and other foods with little nutritional value. The bill, LD 1411, is titled "Resolve, To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Request a Waiver To Prohibit the Use of Food Supplement Benefits for the Purchase of Taxable Food Items."

"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, 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, held the promise for common ground on welfare reform. Public health advocates supported the measure as a means to ensure healthy eating practices among low-income families. Conservatives supported the measure as a means to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used to actually help people by providing nutritious meals, and are not being squandered on gratuitous purchases.

"It's really unfortunate," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "We're seeing it with the hospital payment bill as well. Just when we think we have bipartisan agreement on good policy for Maine people, Democrats pull the plug in a partisan, last-minute stunt."

The 8-5 vote to kill the bill split exactly along party lines. The bill will go to the floor of the House and Senate, where members will have an opportunity to vote in support of the welfare reform measure.

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David Sorensen
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793