Wisconsin Republicans Push Bill to Limit Food Stamp Purchases

| by Alexander Rubinstein
article imagearticle image

A public benefits committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature approved a bill proposed by Rep. Robert Brooks that would restrict what food stamp recipients can purchase through the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as FoodShare.

Included in the bill are prohibitions on purchases of crab, lobster, shrimp and any other shellfish. It would limit spending on dry beans, spaghetti sauce and cooking spices, and also require that beneficiaries spend two-thirds of their average $220 monthly allotment on "healthy foods."

If last year’s statistics are representative of today’s numbers, the bill would affect 420,000 households and 800,000 individuals, reports ThinkProgress. But, state lawmakers do not have the authority to constrain SNAP spending directly. Instead, they have to request the U.S. Department of Agriculture exempt them from the federal program’s rules.

Reasons for the legislation, which some have labeled "intrusive," are stories of irresponsible spending and the public perception that SNAP recipients abuse their government assistance, according to Brooks, a Republican.

A report from the USDA based on thousands of surveyed SNAP beneficiaries found they tend to have slightly less healthy diets than most, but are in line with people with similar backgrounds.

A fiscal analysis of the cost of implementing the bill found that it would cost the state several million dollars, reports The Huffington Post. The Midwest Food Processors Association argued in a joint letter that the bill would also affect Wisconsin businesses that make cheese, butter, frozen pizza, chocolate milk, cranberry juice and other products that would be restricted by the bill.

So far, only one Wisconsin Republican has defected from his colleagues following the fiscal analysis. In fact, restrictive legislation of SNAP spending is popular among conservatives in other states, including Maine, Missouri and Kansas. Wisconsin’s governor and 2016 presidential hopeful, Scott Walker, goes even further by supporting mandatory drug testing for SNAP applicants, though roughly 12 states have found that few applicants fail the drug tests.

Sources: The Huffington Post, ThinkProgress

Photo Source: Flickr